The McLaren team has claimed that Heikki Kovalainen was not asked to move over for a charging Lewis Hamilton in the latter stages of the German Grand Prix, despite the Briton appearing to have easy passage past his team-mate en route to victory.

The decision not to pit Hamilton under the safety car precipitated by Timo Glock's mid-race accident left the points leader back in fifth place when he rejoined after a 'green flag' stop, but he appeared to be 'gifted' two spots by Nick Heidfeld's pit-stop and Kovalainen's apparent lack of resistance.

Such was Hamilton's progress past his team-mate, there were mutterings of 'team orders', even though such practices have been banned since Ferrari occasionally used them to great effect in helping Michael Schumacher overcome Rubens Barrichello during their time together at Maranello. Instead, McLaren insisted that Kovalainen had been wise enough to realise that he was only going to hold his team-mate back if he contested fourth place, and conceded the spot of his own volition.

"The reality in that particular situation was that Lewis was quicker than Heikki on the day," team CEO Martin Whitmarsh explained, "When Lewis came up behind him, Heikki was sporting enough to move over - even though it must have been an incredibly difficult decision for him to make in the cockpit. We're grateful for Heikki for showing the strength of character and sportsmanship to make that sacrifice - we're all aware how tough it must have been."

The team had already been penalised for illegal practice on the Finn's car during qualifying on Saturday afternoon, although Whitmarsh pointed out that that had been a misunderstanding of the rules regarding in-session refuelling.

"During a busy qualifying session, if you want to accurately deliver a small amount of fuel to the car, it is easier to use a small churn of fuel rather than connecting the regular race refuelling rig," Whitmarsh explained.

"Article 29.2 of the 2008 Sporting Regulations states that 'a driver may remain in his car throughout refuelling but, unless an FIA-approved race refuelling system is used, the engine must be stopped.' We refuelled Heikki's car during the Q2 session using a churn while his engine was still running, but we reasoned - incorrectly, as it happened - that we were operating within the regulations because we were using an [FIA] approved Intertechnique nozzle to deliver the fuel.

"Having discussed the matter with the stewards, we accepted that we were in breach of the Sporting Regulations. Clearly, though, we received no performance advantage from doing this and accepted the stewards' judgment as totally fair."

Having twice been docked grid positions for allegedly blocking other car during Saturday's high-pressure session, Kovalainen and the crew escaped with a EUR5000 fine.