With the F1 racing taking a short break before the Chinese Grand Prix the attention will for a while turn to FIA, diffusers and McLaren. Although with FIA we can never tell and they may come up with a surprise not too many people expect the diffusers used by Brawn, Toyota and Williams to be ruled illegal. The situation where the outcome is less clear is what will FIA do with McLaren (yet again).
Max Mosley did not rule out the possibility of McLaren being brought before the World Motor Sport Council to explain what was going on in Australia (and then in Malaysia). An FIA spokesman later said to Reuters:
“We recognise Lewis’s efforts to set the record straight today. It would appear that he was put in an impossible position. We are now awaiting reports from the FIA observer and stewards before consideration can be given to further investigation of his team’s conduct.”
That may be coming out quite well for Lewis Hamilton but it also sounds rather dangerous for McLaren.
McLaren has been summoned to appear before the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council on April 29 to answer charges that it has brought Formula 1 into disrepute over the controversy surrounding Lewis Hamilton’s Australian Grand Prix disqualification.
The FIA announced on Tuesday that the team will appear before the extraordinary WMSC hearing in Paris on the Wednesday after the Bahrain GP to answer charges that it has breached Article 151c of the International Sporting Code (“Any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally.”)
The FIA states that McLaren may have broken the regulations on five counts, that:
* on 29 March, 2009, told the stewards of the Australian Grand Prix that no instructions were given to Hamilton in Car No. 1 to allow Trulli in Car no. 9 to pass when both cars were behind the safety car, knowing this statement to be untrue;
* procured its driver Hamilton the current World Champion, to support and confirm this untrue statement to the stewards;
* although knowing that as a direct result of its untrue statement to the stewards, another driver and a rival team had been unfairly penalised, made no attempt to rectify the situation either by contacting the FIA or otherwise;
* on 2 April, 2009, at a second hearing before the stewards of the Australian Grand Prix, (meeting in Malaysia) made no attempt to correct the untrue statement of 29 March but, on the contrary, continued to maintain that the statement was true, despite being allowed to listen to a recording of the team instructing Hamilton to let Trulli past and despite being given more than one opportunity to correct its false statement;
* on 2 April, 2009, at the second stewards’ hearing, procured its driver Hamilton to continue to assert the truth of the false statement given to the stewards on 29 March, while knowing that what he was saying to the stewards was not true.
So what can happen to McLaren ?
1) Nothing, that is always a possibility. FIA may decide that the penalty imposed on Lewis Hamilton and McLaren (exclusion from Australian GP) fits well the crime commited and that may be the end of it.
2) FIA may however come to conclusion that further punishment is necessary for the team or for the driver or for both. That may include fines, exclusion from races or from the championship.
Teams do get excluded from races from time to time but that usually happens after the race and for some technical infringements. Most recent case was Toyota’s exclusion from Australian GP qualifying. The issue of ambient and fuel temperatures in Brazil 2007 is another recent story (at the end with no guilty verdict, no guilty parties and no penalties).
More severe penalties are not that common. I can think of only three in last 25 years (please correct me if I am wrong):
- 1984 when Tyrrell was banned from the final three races of the season and was retroactively thrown out of the entire championship season. That case was a mix of rule bending and F1 politics at its best (without Tyrrell the remaining teams passed the vote to keep the 220-liter tanks for the next season, a move that Ken Tyrrell opposed).
– 2005 when Tyrrell’s new guise, BAR Honda drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato were disqualified from San Marino GP for running underweight car and using fuel as ballast. The BAR Honda team was also banned from the next two races of that season missing out also on Monaco GP. At that time Max Mosley pushed for the ban for the entire season.
– 2007, the still very fresh in memory spy gate. McLaren were handed the infamous 100 million fine and lost all their constructors points. At that case Max Mosley also wanted to kick the team out of the championship.
Even if the FIA decides not to take any further steps, the problems for the team may not be over. There are still clouds over future of the new team principal Martin Whitmarsh who played important part in the whole mess (by insisting that the team did not lie to stewards).
Then there are those not too happy Merdeces people who probably can live with temporary mid field presence of their team (especially when Mercedes engines are still winning the races with other team) but who may not be too keen on being associated with someone who deliberately lies (and gets caught).
And there is also their star driver who few months back was happy to spend his whole career with McLaren and who may not be that sure about that anymore …
All this for 1 point gained (OK, 7 if taken as a relative gain on Trulli) …