Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team boss, has spoken about the recent disqualification handed down from the stewards regarding the Safety Car period in the Australian Grand Prix that saw Lewis Hamilton get passed by Jarno Trulli resulting in a penalty to Toyota elevating Lewis to the last podium position.
It appears that the Stewards feel that McLaren were being misleading during the initial inquiry and they have subsequently listened to media interviews and radio communication that indicate McLaren, in fact, did tell their driver to slow and let Jarno Trulli pass. The suggestion is that they failed to mention this in the initial inquiry.
“As we see it, what happened here is that during the closing stages of the Australian Grand Prix, under difficult conditions, there was a safety car incident whereby Jarno Trulli fell off the circuit and Lewis [Hamilton] could legitimately pass Trulli. I don’t think that is in question,” he explained.
“Once that had happened, of course, the team could not see it. Lewis informed the team that he had passed Trulli â€“ and there was understandably concern within the team that he had passed Trulli under a safety car.
“At that time, we did not know that Trulli was right off the circuit and Lewis was asked to give back the place to Trulli. That was a team view, having not seen it, and we thought it was the safest thing to do.
“Once that instruction was given to Lewis, he did not agree. He said: â€˜Look, the guy was off the circuit, I didn’t need to do this.’ A discussion was occurring and before that discussion was finished, Trulli had re-passed. If we look at the speed traces at that time, and compare it to other periods behind the safety car, then Lewis did not do anything abnormal. And I think it is also quite clear that Trulli should not have re-passed.
“As soon as that happened, we then spoke to Race Control, to explain that and ask if we could retake that place. At the time, understandably Race Control was busy and they were not able to give us an answer. We asked several times, but clearly they were very busy. So we had to then deal with it. We felt it would be resolved by the stewards after the race.
“At the stewards’ meeting, we mistakenly believed that the stewards were aware, Charlie [Whiting] was there, and the FIA was there, of that radio conversation. The stewards now believe that we were not explicit enough about that radio conversation, and felt therefore that that was prejudicial to the decision that they reached. Obviously we regret that, and that was a mistake by the team, but we have got to accept the decision that has now been made.”
So was it misleading or not? Without the actual transcript of the original inqiry, it is hard to determine.