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Hamilton rapped for Twitter telemetry leak
3 September 2012
Lewis Hamilton was ordered by McLaren to delete a post to a social networking site containing a photo of confidential team telemetry, it was revealed on Sunday.
The photo from a smartphone camera is somewhat fuzzy, but is still perfectly legible and could be of use to McLaren's rivals trying to uncover some of the Woking squad's technology and working practice.
The telemetry contained graphs comparing the performance of his and team mate Jenson Button's cars during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday. It also showed information about the car set-up including the crucial ride height measurement. A rival team could potentially reverse-engineer a lot about how McLaren was running their cars from the data shown.
Hamilton posted it as part of his attempts to explain why he had been so frustrated about his poor performance in the final part of qualifying which left him starting from seventh place on the grid - and ultimately right in the firing line of Romain Grosjean's aggressive lunge to the right which triggered the La Source wreck.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh confirmed that the team had requested Hamilton immediately remove the photo.
"He was asked to take it down and he did it immediately," stated Whitmarsh on Sunday. "He misjudged the situation ... He made an error of judgment and we asked him to take that one down, and he did.'
Hamilton also deleted a number of other posts on Twitter in which he made comments that could be construed as critical of the decision not to run the new rear wing on his car for qualifying and to try a high downforce setting instead, which ended up compromising his flatline speed around the 7km Spa-Francorchamps circuit. However, Whitmarsh insisted that Hamilton deleted these other posts on his own initiative.
"All the other ones we didn't ask him to remove, but that one he removed it and apologised," he said. "The [other] tweets over the weekend he took down of his own volition. No one spoke to him about it.
"He wasn't thinking clearly obviously," added Whitmarsh.
Hamilton later explained that he wanted to "rephrase" some of the feelings expressed in the initial tweets, which had contained colloquial language and acronyms involving swear words. He avoided discussing the issues again on Twitter itself.
Whitmarsh said that was the end of the matter as far as he was concerned and that he was keen to move on, but according to the Daily Mail
he added: "It would be interesting to see how other team principals would deal with it."
Christian Horner - until recently said to be courting Hamilton for Red Bull until the team re-signed Mark Webber for 2013 - pointedly boasted that none of his drivers would ever reveal such sensitive data or commit an equivalent breach of confidentiality, as he referred to it.
"I haven't seen the tweet in detail [but] from what I understand it was car data," Horner is reported as saying. "If it was car data then I'm sure every engineer in the pit lane is having a very close look at it."
However, McLaren's technical boss Paddy Lowe insisted that the leak had done little harm to McLaren in reality.
"The data in there isn't any great use to anyone so I don't think there is much damage done," he said, adding that most of the data shown on the leaked picture would be available to rivals through other means already.
"He didn't really appreciate the nature of that information," Lowe told BBC Sport
. "The engineers don't like to see that because we spend our lives trying to keep things like that secret. It is more what it represents."
Lowe said that Lewis now understood the issues involved and understood his mistake.
It's been a fraught weekend for the relationship between Hamilton and his team. Before the August break it looked as though the two parties were back on good terms, especially after McLaren gave Hamilton a race-winning car at Hungary which he promptly piloted to victory at the Hungaroring. That gave rise to stories last month that the long-awaited contract extension to keep Hamilton in Woking was getting close and just a formality.
But the situation seems to have soured again since the team has got back to work, with Hamilton's evident discontent at being outpaced by his team mate in qualifying followed by McLaren's barely-disguised anger at the telemetry leak suggesting that the situation might be more terminal on both sides now than had been previously speculated.