Was Martin Whitmarsh implicated?

I know that not many people are thinking about this just now, especially as attention has turned to the diffuser debate. But I have only just found the time to write about it here. You may have seen me mention this elsewhere, including in the comments to this blog. But I haven’t yet included it as a separate post.

I first mentioned this in a comment to one of the posts below. Afterwards I decided to write a comment about it on James Allen’s blog. He then saw fit to use my comment as the foundation of a separate post which he called “Fresh insight into McLaren case“.

He had mentioned that the WMSC may find it difficult to prove that anyone other than Dave Ryan and Lewis Hamilton was involved in the decision to lie to the stewards at the Australian Grand Prix. But I remembered an interview that Martin Whitmarsh had with the BBC’s Ted Kravitz which I found very interesting. You can watch the video here, but it is only available to UK users. In case you can’t see it, I have transcribed the relevant part below:

…there’s some debate about whether it’s a 3rd place at the moment given that Trulli fell off and re-passed under the Safety Car…

[Ted Kravitz asks him to expand on this.]

…At the end, under the Safety Car, Trulli fell off onto the grass and Lewis had no choice but to go past him. He was not on the racing circuit. Trulli then re-took the place under the Safety Car, which ordinarily you wouldn’t do.

I know that the FIA are looking at it at the moment and doubtless we’ll have a ruling in due course.

For me, the interview is very misleading. It is “technically true”. But Martin Whitmarsh leaves the BBC’s viewers with the distinct impression that Jarno Trulli was in the wrong — that he had overtaken Lewis Hamilton of his own accord, not having been invited to do so. The key point is that the version of events relayed by Martin Whitmarsh to the BBC’s viewers is more or less identical to what we understand Dave Ryan and Lewis Hamilton told the stewards.

This means one of three things. One is that it is an entirely meaningless coincidence, though it would be quite a remarkable one. Second, both Dave Ryan and Martin Whitmarsh independently came up with the same cover story. This in itself would say something bad about the culture of McLaren.

The third possibility is that a version of events — the McLaren party line, as it were — was constructed very soon after the race. In this scenario, Martin Whitmarsh was in on it, and Dave Ryan has become the fall guy. If this is the case, McLaren are guilty as sin and the decision to scapegoat Dave Ryan is reprehensible.

A lot of journalists sensed that Martin Whitmarsh knew more than he was letting on. The BBC interview only adds to this impression. The interview throws the spotlight straight back onto Martin Whitmarsh. What did he know about the situation? Did he instruct Dave Ryan — who by all accounts I have heard is a well-respected person within the paddock — to lie to the stewards?

A lot of the conversation on James Allen’s blog has centred on Martin Whitmarsh’s use of the word “ordinarily” in the sentence, “Trulli then re-took the place under the Safety Car, which ordinarily you wouldn’t do.” I noted in my original comment, “Yeah, you wouldn’t do it… unless the guy in front pulled over!”

I was surprised that the BBC themselves hadn’t made more of the interview. Perhaps they had forgotten about it. I note with interest now that the Telegraph is reporting that the FIA have requested a copy of the interview from the BBC.

I must point out here that I sincerely hope that any further punishment the FIA hands out to McLaren is not too over-the-top. I should think a fine (considerably less than ONE HUNDRED MEELION DOLLARS) or the removal of Constructors’ Championship points for a few races would suffice. After all, what McLaren did may have been unsporting. But they did not do anything downright dangerous, like a certain man who drove a red car was fond of doing from time to time and never got more than a slap on the wrists for.


  1. Yes it is a little difficult to hand out punishments when Schui copped no real penalty for the assault on JV in 97.

    However, the more that comes out about McLaren’s involvement in this mess, the more I’m convinced that Ryan was no lone rouge.

    Further, despite his back flip & apparently earning himself a get out of jail free card Hamilton is hardly coming across as pure as driven snow. He effectively sidestepped his involvement in the Australian hearing with a “I was misled”. But his second trip to the well, & his denials despite the evidence presented, cast him in a different light.

    At the end of the day, when Hamilton was required to stand up in Oz & say, I want no part of this, he failed. He failed again in Malaysia. Only when caught in the spot light did he become contrite & even then it was the fault of others. He appears to have gone along with two shams, one being the Trulli theft & the other in being a participant in throwing Ryan under the bus.

  2. I have to say that even though Hamilton’s actions don’t look too good, I do feel sorry for him as I outlined in an earlier post. He is, after all, an employee of McLaren and it is generally a good idea to do what your bosses tell you. Whether the instructions came from Martin Whitmarsh or Dave Ryan, if I was Lewis Hamilton I think I would find it difficult to doubt either of them, given all their experience.

    Mind you, I saw someone else pointing out that Hamilton has not always played the team game, as we found out at Hungary in 2007. Perhaps Hamilton learned from that incident though. But if that’s the case, it has unfortunately come back to bite him badly.

  3. I tell you, when I read the story last night on Autosport.com, the first thing that came to my mind was – someone from FIA read vee8 blog 🙂

    they might have received the alert from some other source, but it is also well possible that your observation lead to that request 🙂

  4. There is a fourth option of course…

    Martin Whitmarsh asked Dave Ryan what happened and Dave Ryan told him the lie.

    My guess is that this is what we’ll hear McLaren saying about this.

  5. The voice we hear on the radio comms though, is that Ryan or Whitmarsh? And if it is Ryan, would Whitmarsh have heard the comms at the time and therefore know what was going on?

  6. Thanks F1Wolf. 🙂 I doubt if I’m the one that got this ball rolling. The Autosport article focuses mainly on a Radio 5 Live interview which I hadn’t picked up on. Still, it’s a nice thought!

    Alex and Pink Peril — interesting questions. The issue over whether Martin Whitmarsh lied appears to be down to whether he heard the radio communications. I guess it’s always possible that he was completely unaware of the radio messages, though I would find that surprising.

    The voice on the radio is Phil Prew, who I think is Hamilton’s race engineer. He was partially relaying instructions given to him by Dave Ryan.

  7. I believe the requested tapes are the one with the Radio 5 interview and the pitlane interview with Ted Kravitz, at least that is how I understood the article

  8. it seems that everybody is writing either on blog posts or newspaper columns or blog comments saying that they don’t want too harsh a penalty for mclaren and lewis and that they feel sorry for lewis or whatever but at the same time their writings and comments further condemn and provide ammunition to the anti-mclaren/hamilton movement..

    i know this sells papers and provide incredible traffic to sites but what happened to decency and the racing? enough already..we all know mclaren/lewis are always in the fia scope and the trigger is primed to strike..don’t worry, april 29 will hammer them some more, so what is with this dousing the flames with jetfuel? enough..it seems that the daily mail has a free lifetime supply of jetfuel..they keep on churning out cheap trash on a daily basis..maybe the y should be renamed the daily trash..

  9. Sorry this is a bit of a late post from a site newbie but I do feel strongly about the subject.

    This ‘Liegate’ scandal is an appalling waste of time, it’s an FIA (read Max Mosely and Alan Donnelly) contrived publicity stunt and yet more evidence of the FIA victimisation of McLaren.

    Personally I’m not interested if McLaren are punished for on track indiscretions but to cite ‘bringing the FIA into disrepute’ by lying about an event that was nothing than a minor on track misunderstanding is stretching credibility to its limits.

    Hamilton jumped out a 180mph F1 car virtually straight into an interrogation with the FIA. Yea maybe he and Ryan did say the wrong thing, maybe they just wanted to buy some time to find out what happened before committing themselves but why would they bother when they knew every ship to shore conversation is recorded and would be used by the FIA. Why would Hamilton blab to the press within minutes of the FIA interrogation that he had let Trulli past.

    This whole affair ought to have been discussed and Hamilton given the place with Trulli awarded fourth.

    The FIA is as consistent in it’s inconsistency as our current government and I believe stupid political tactics to divide and conquer are a consequence of Donnelly’s ‘expertise’ in politics and Mosleys love for power through manipulation.

    F1 is a circus at the best of times but Mosley needs to go.

  10. Dreaduk, thanks for the comment.

    While Hamilton may have lied in Australia with the adrenaline flowing fresh after jumping out of the car, this doesn’t explain why he and Mr Ryan decided to continue lying when they met again with the stewards a week later in Malaysia, despite having listened to the radio conversation and being given an opportunity to correct their story.

    I agree that the FIA is at fault for its shambolic stewarding processes, and I still cannot fathom why they did not originally listen to the radio transmissions while they were in Melbourne.

    Mosley has been in charge while the stewards’ decisions have become ever farcical, and I would agree that Max Mosley has done ten times as much to bring the sport into disrepute as McLaren has.

  11. DoctorVee

    My understanding is that either there are no transcripts of the discussions during the meetings or they have not been released by the FIA so we only have the FIA’s word that Hamilton & Ryan lied.

    Of course there will then be the FIA hearing, presided over by, yes……the FIA, has Ryan been sacrificed for the sake of the team? wasn’t that enough for the FIA, was Dennis the lamb to the slaughter or did he just get fed up of the crap, God only knows but I don’t think any serious F1 fan has any faith in the FIA anymore.

    Strangely, I don’t really agree with your last paragraph. Mosley and Ecclestone have been running F1 for almost as long as I can remember and to be honest, it wouldn’t be the sport we have today without them but Bernie seems to be pushing the venues too far with inappropriate evening races and night races that, as was shown with MotoGP, if it rains simply cant be run.

    Most of the real problems seem to have developed since Donnelly joined which reflects his political background, micro management and interference of everything he’s involved with.

    A friend of mine told me a story of the oldest documented living organism on earth which was a Eucalyptus plant some 5,000 years old. When the scientists discovered it they decided to ensure it’s safety so began ‘looking after’ it whereupon it promptly died when one of them pruned it. That’s Donnelly, can’t leave well alone.

    Max has to go, taking Donnelly with him, and I believe the ideal replacement is Todt, the best manager in the pit lane.