Formula 1's governing body the FIA has announced that McLaren-Mercedes has escaped with a suspended sentence for having dragged the sport into disrepute over the Melbourne 'lies' scandal last month.
The multiple title-winning outfit and its star driver, defending F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, found themselves in the dock today (Wednesday) as the World Motor Sport Council met in Paris to debate whether any further sanctions were necessary on top of the team and driver's disqualification from the 2009 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix and the public approbation that followed for having been found to have 'deliberately misled' Albert Park stewards.
Both Hamilton and respected long-time McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan insisted under questioning Down Under that the former had not
been instructed to move aside to let Toyota ace Jarno Trulli re-pass him during a late-race safety car period in the season-opener – but subsequently published pits-to-car radio communication proved that to be a false assertion, seemingly in an effort to get the Italian penalised and inherit third place.
The sanctions available to the WMSC for the misdemeanour ranged as far as expulsion from the entire campaign, but the FIA has admitted that its comparative leniency was instigated by an 'open and honest' letter sent by team principal Martin Whitmarsh to Max Mosley accepting McLaren's guilt and wrongdoing over the matter, and an emotional public apology by Hamilton a week on from the incident in Sepang.
The team admitted all five charges of breaching Article 151c of the International Sporting Code on which it was held accountable.
'Having regard to the open and honest way in which McLaren Team Principal, Mr Martin Whitmarsh, addressed the WMSC and the change in culture which he made clear has taken place in his organisation, the WMSC decided to suspend the application of the penalty it deems appropriate,' read an official FIA statement.
'That penalty is a suspension of the team from three races of the FIA Formula One World Championship. This will only be applied if further facts emerge regarding the case or if, in the next twelve months, there is a further breach by the team of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code.'
McLaren previously ran into trouble with the FIA only two years ago over the infamous espionage row that rocked the top flight, finding itself disqualified from the 2007 constructors' world championship and fined a sporting record $100 million. Some attributed the outwardly disproportionate nature of the punishment to the ill-disguised mutual antipathy between FIA President Mosley and Ron Dennis, who recently stepped down from his role as team principal of the Woking-based concern and has since severed all ties with the team.