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WMSC's McLaren decision in full

NEWS STORY
01/05/2009

Re: Article 151(c) and 152 International Sporting Code – Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 29 April 2009

The World Motor Sport Council ("WMSC") met on 29th April 2009 to consider a charge that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ("McLaren"), a competitor in the FIA Formula One World Championship, had breached Article 151(c) of the International Sporting Code ("ISC"), which prohibits "any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally".

1 Background

1.1 During the closing laps of the 2009 Australian Grand Prix, an incident occurred which required that the safety car be deployed. At the time of deployment, driver No. 1 Lewis Hamilton (for McLaren) was placed fourth and driver No. 9 Jarno Trulli (for Panasonic Toyota Racing ("Toyota")) was placed third.

1.2 While running behind the safety car, Trulli left the track and Hamilton passed to take third place. Hamilton subsequently moved off the racing line to the right of the track and Trulli repassed, taking back third place.

1.3 Article 40.7 of the 2009 Formula One Sporting Regulations sets out the rules governing overtaking while running behind the safety car. Article 40.7 reads, in relevant part, as follows: "All competing cars must […] reduce speed and form up in line behind the safety car no more than ten car lengths apart and overtaking, with the following exceptions, is forbidden until the cars reach the Line after the safety car has returned to the pits. Overtaking will be permitted under the following circumstances: […] - .

1.4 In light of Article 40.7 and the fact that Hamilton and Trulli had passed each other while running behind the safety car, the matter was referred to the Stewards of the Meeting ("Stewards") by the FIA Race Director. As part of their investigation of the incident, the Stewards summoned Trulli and Hamilton and their respective team managers to a hearing on 29th March 2009 at which the FIA Race Director was also present ("29th March Hearing").

1.5 At the 29th March Hearing, the Stewards and the Race Director asked questions regarding Trulli's passing of Hamilton. Trulli stated that Hamilton had moved off the racing line to the right of the track and had begun to travel very slowly. As a result, Trulli pulled up alongside Hamilton to see whether Hamilton would wave him through. There being no response, Trulli proceeded to pass Hamilton.

1.6 Hamilton was asked by the Stewards why he had moved off his line and whether there was a problem with his car. He informed the Stewards that there were no problems with his car and that he had drifted right because he was checking his lap time and was concerned that his tyres were cold. Hamilton was then asked whether he had consciously let Trulli pass. He said "no". He was asked if he had been told to let Trulli through, at which point his Team Manager, Dave Ryan, interjected and answered "no". There were further exchanges, with the Stewards posing similar questions but Hamilton and his Team Manager were clear in their insistence that Hamilton had not slowed down and had not let Trulli through.

1.7 The Stewards considered the evidence, including the McLaren representatives' statements, and issued a decision, penalising Trulli for overtaking while behind the safety car in breach of Article 40.7 and imposing a drive-through penalty. Since the race was already finished, the drive-through penalty was converted into a penalty of 25 seconds to be added to Trulli's elapsed race time. As a result of the penalty, Trulli was demoted from third place to twelfth place and Hamilton was moved from fourth place to third place.

1.8 From the release of the aforementioned decision until the reconvening of the Stewards in Malaysia on 2nd April 2009, no McLaren representative contacted the FIA, its Race Director or the Stewards in relation to that decision. During this time, the official result of the Australian Grand Prix was understood to be that Hamilton had been placed third and that Trulli had been placed twelfth.

1.9 Late on Sunday evening, after the official result had been published, it came to the attention of the Chairman of the Stewards and the FIA Race Director that there existed a press interview given by Hamilton in which he stated that he had been told by McLaren to let Trulli pass. Based on this information, a recording of the pit-to-car radio exchanges between Hamilton and McLaren was retrieved and examined by the Stewards and the FIA Race Director. Having been informed by Hamilton that Trulli had left the track and that Hamilton had passed to take third position, the team instructed Hamilton as follows:

"Lewis, you need to allow the Toyota through. Allow the Toyota through now."

1.10 Hamilton responded: "OK."

1.11 Having listened to the press interview and the pit-to-car radio exchanges, the Stewards reconvened on Thursday 2nd April 2009 in Malaysia ("2nd April Hearing") where Hamilton and Trulli and their respective team managers were interviewed again. Trulli confirmed his statement from the 29th March Hearing (see section 1.5).

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