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.