Wednesday, 29 April could have a significant impact on McLaren’s 2009 season. It has already been a troubled start to the season. The car performance hasn’t been what McLaren were hoping for, plus there has been all the fallout from “Lie-Gate” in Melbourne.
McLaren have been called to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) to answer charges relating to this incident.
The WMSC have a range of different punishments which they could throw at McLaren. These start off with a basic reprimand/warning. They could choose to fine McLaren.
However, it could be more severe than that. The WMSC could choose take points off the team or ban them for a number of races. They could even ban them from the rest of the season altogether. That’s the worst-case scenario.
We also have to remember that it hasn’t been that long since the “Spygate” scandal. This won’t help their cause.
Everyone who is part of the McLaren team is going to have their legs shaking till the final verdict is delivered. Fans worldwide will be holding their breath.
It is very important that the FIA hold their nerve and give the right punishment. Whatever punishment they give McLaren will set a precedent. If they decide to be hard on McLaren, it will set a very dangerous precedent if teams commit similar or worse offences in the future. They have to be consistent in their punishments.
It’s critical that the punishment they choose is in proportion and fits the crime that McLaren have committed. You get the feeling that the FIA realise the importance of getting this decision right.
Whilst it’s true that lying to the stewards is a serious offence, there are far worse offences. These include a driver deliberately ramming a rival off the track, ignoring a black flag, or having an illegal part on the car (which gives an advantage) and keeping it under wraps. These are just a few examples.
If the FIA were to give a season ban to McLaren over “Lie-Gate,” then what would they do if one of the above offences were committed in future? It would have to be a harsher punishment than the one they give to McLaren over Lie-Gate in order to be consistent and not come under immense scrutiny.
It would be like giving someone the death penalty for robbery, and then somebody afterwards committing a murder. What higher punishment would you be able to hand out then?
This is why the FIA risk going into murky waters if they opt to give McLaren the worst sanction possible. They have to tread carefully, no matter how tempted they are to punish McLaren heavily.
It can’t be forgotten that McLaren have already suffered punishment over this incident. McLaren were disqualified from the Australian GP, losing six points. Lewis Hamilton and the team have also suffered major dents in their reputation. This reputation is going to take a long time to recover. It might never recover.
Lewis’s career has been badly affected. A long-term employee of McLaren (Dave Ryan) has also lost his job as a result of Lie-Gate. It could be argued that there is no need to punish the team any further.
So what is going to be the outcome of this hearing?
An important factor that will go in McLaren’s favour is that Martin Whitmarsh very quickly apologised and admitted that McLaren were in the wrong.
Lewis Hamilton also made that emotional apology in front of the world’s media in Sepang. The FIA accepted this apology. From this acceptance of the apology, it seems likely that any punishment given is going to be aimed at just the team. Hamilton will very likely escape any sanction against him personally.
Lewis Hamilton has attracted many fans to the sport and is the one of the grid’s most exciting drivers. He is now one of F1’s star attractions. Bernie Ecclestone knows that if Hamilton wasn’t on the grid, it would be damaging for audience figures. Therefore his wallet would suffer in the process. His wallet has already taken a big battering after the recent divorce from his wife.
After Michael Schumacher’s incident with Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 at Jerez, there were calls for him to be excluded from the 1998 championship. However, Schumacher was the big star attraction at the time. He ended up being allowed to start the 1998 season from the start.
His presence resulted in a very exciting title battle with Mika Hakkinen. You can see why Bernie didn’t want him banned from races, or excluded from the championship. It’s a similar case here with Hamilton.
Martin Whitmarsh has also written an apology letter to the FIA. He has effectively pleaded guilty to all the charges facing McLaren. The fact that he has done this could certainly help reduce McLaren’s punishment.
In February 2008 the FIA were due to have an unprecedented meeting to decide the legality of McLaren’s 2008 entry as a result of “Spygate.” A letter from Martin Whitmarsh apologising for the Spygate scandal helped McLaren’s cause greatly.
After receipt of that letter that February meeting was soon abandoned. McLaren were then allowed to take part in the 2008 championship. McLaren agreed to go down a different route with the development of their brake system. This is an idea they admitted came from the infamous 780-page Ferrari document.
Therefore, I think the letter from Whitmarsh will make a big difference for McLaren again this time. He won’t be contesting any of the charges against the team. This in fact now makes the hearing a much simpler affair.
His guilty plea to all these charges has removed the need for much of the investigation. The FIA will now not need to hear any evidence from the key figures in Lie-Gate, including Dave Ryan and Lewis Hamilton. Martin Whitmarsh is now going to be entering the hearing alone.
McLaren should never have gotten themselves into this mess in the first place. However, they have reacted well to it in the aftermath and done everything possible to limit the damage. Pleading guilty to all the charges and accepting full responsibility could prove to be the right move. Certainly in everyday life pleading guilty to an offence can reduce the sentence that gets handed out.
The resignation of Ron Dennis has been seen as another factor that could help McLaren. The relationship between Max Mosley and Ron Dennis has been very frosty over the years. Dennis has already denied claims that his decision to resign has anything to do with “Lie-Gate,” although it’s very hard to imagine that the timing of the two events has just been a mere coincidence.
McLaren have also stated their intention to build bridges with the FIA, and improve their relationship. Under Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren now want to change as a team and alter their image. McLaren are going to become a different team to the one we got used to under Ron Dennis.
I am sure many think there will be a massive punishment, but in the end I don’t think it will be that severe.
Surely McLaren will get a sizeable fine. They are also likely to suffer a points deduction. This could range from anything between 20 and 50 points. A suspended race ban is also a possibility. This means that if McLaren do break the rules again, then they would definitely be faced with a race ban.
The absolute worst-case scenario I feel is that McLaren are excluded from the Constructors’ Championship. This would be similar to 2007, but they were still allowed to enter races and score in the drivers’ championship. There is an outside chance of them facing a two-race ban. I can’t see the outcome being worse than that.
Nevertheless, you can never quite tell what the FIA have up their sleeves. They have made some strange decisions in the past.
Let’s hope that for the sake of the 2009 campaign that the appropriate punishment is given, and that the line can be drawn under this affair. Let’s get back to the racing!
Could Mclaren still win this championship?
It’s not impossible that Mclaren could fight back and win a championship this season. The amount of progress that they have made since pre-season testing has been staggering. In the test in Spain they were over two seconds of the pace of Brawn GP. However Mclaren have immense resources and personnel. If anyone can quickly cure their problems and close the gap then it’s Mclaren. Remember 2004 when Mclaren came back to win at Spa after a dreadfully slow and unreliable start to the season.
Each weekend so far this season they have made strides forward. Hamilton did a great qualifying lap and was 5thon the grid on merit rather the result of a lighter fuel load. He qualified ahead of Barrichello with more fuel on board.
In the race he was able to keep up with the front runners, but fell back a bit in the last stint. 4th was still a stunning result for the team. This a result which many would have regarded as impossible before the season began.
Perhaps the most impressive fact was Lewis’s position in the fastest laps of the race chart. His lap was less than 0.4 seconds slower than Trulli’s quickest lap. Both their fastest laps were set towards the end of the first stint. That is now the gap Mclaren have between themselves and the front three of Red Bull, Toyota and Brawn (who incidentally are now much more closely matched than at the start of 2009).
In Spain Mclaren will be bringing a substantial upgrade. A few weeks ago there were predictions from people inside the team, saying that the car would fly in Spain. That suggestion sounded crazy back then, but after seeing the progress the car is making, then maybe it’s not impossible.
Mclaren will have keep control of their expectations as other teams including Ferrari and BMW Sauber are planning massive upgrades are. Brawn GP are also introducing their first major season upgrade in Spain. Therefore they can’t be too cocky.
Nobody is going to be standing still between now and Spain. Lewis admitted that there is even a chance of Mclaren falling backwards in Spain. It all depends on how good everyone else’s major upgrades. The order could look completely different in Spain as the field is so tight. A few tenth’s worth of development will shuffle teams around.
Catalunya is a circuit where it’s important to have really good aerodynamic efficiency, and good tyre management. This is a very demanding circuit where cars with shortcomings are found out. If Mclaren can show a good performance there, then signs could be very promising for the rest of the season.
I think McLaren will end up winning races this season but I feel they will have to wait a bit longer. I can see them returning as regular front runners in the second half of the season.
In terms of the championship it could be too late by then. The gap could be too big to close down. Of course the other factor is what punishment Mclaren receive from the WMSC on Wednesday.
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:33.647 + 19
2. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) 1:33.907 + 0.260 17
3. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 1:33.938 + 0.291 17
4. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:34.227 + 0.580 24
5. Button Brawn GP-Mercedes (B) 1:34.434 + 0.787 15
6. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:34.502 + 0.855 24
7. Barrichello Brawn GP-Mercedes (B) 1:34.531 + 0.884 18
8. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:34.589 + 0.942 17
9. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:34.827 + 1.180 21
10. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:34.827 + 1.180 19
11. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:34.880 + 1.233 24
12. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:34.938 + 1.291 21
13. Piquet Renault (B) 1:34.974 + 1.327 21
14. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:35.021 + 1.374 18
15. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:35.036 + 1.389 22
16. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:35.042 + 1.395 16
17. Glock Toyota (B) 1:35.333 + 1.686 20
18. Alonso Renault (B) 1:35.348 + 1.701 24
19. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:35.353 + 1.706 22
20. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:35.369 + 1.722 15
For the second time already this season there are two races back to back. It’s been a fantastic season so far with three thrilling races. F1 2009 is providing us with plenty of surprises, and a completely different grid order.
This weekend Formula 1 goes to Bahrain, which is a track with different challenges and conditions, which should be the opposite of the cool and wet weather we saw in Shanghai.
Track History and Guide
Bahrain is another of F1’s modern facilities built by Hermann Tilke. The facilities here are state of the art and no expense has been spared. Bahrain signed the deal with Bernie to host the GP back in 2002. The organisers then did a great job to build it in 2 years ready for the first race in 2004. All the organisers are extremely welcoming and provide exceptional hospitality for the F1 circus and all of the media.
Bahrain was the first F1 race to be held in the Middle East region. There were other countries from the same region hoping to brag that right, such as Egypt and Lebanon but Bahrain won the battle. They have reaped the benefits since as they are now the centre of motorsport in the gulf and attract a host of other racing series including: Drag racing, GP2, Formula 3, GT Races and more recently the Australian V8 supercars. Bahrain has been a relatively successful F1 event always providing interesting races, and in 2004 the track won the award for best-organized race of the year.
The track’s desert setting makes this track very unique. The sight of the track surrounded by sand makes it very nice to look it. The sand can be a problem but it is compacted down to minimize the amount of sand that comes onto the track. This process costs the organisers thousands of pounds. However there is still always sand offline, so drivers will lose time if they lose their line in any of the corners.
The teams will be hoping that there won’t be a repeat of the sandstorms which struck in winter testing.
It is very hot in Bahrain but the humidity is nowhere near as bad as in Sepang. Therefore it is more bearable for the drivers.
The track itself is made out of 3 long straights, with a tight and twisty infield section in the middle. The track is also extremely wide.
Apologies for the lack of articles recently. I have been spending holiday time with family.
China produced another extremely exciting race with Red Bull winning their first ever race in Formula One. The rain, which was worse than predicted gave the drivers a real challenge. They really had to work for their money, which is what everyone wants to see.
We saw a few stunning performances, along with some error strewn races, too.
So let’s have a look at the main stories to take away from the Chinese GP weekend.
Exceptional performance from Red Bull and both their drivers.
This one-two finish for Red Bull was more than deserved. In the first two races, Red Bull threatened to deliver a great result but it just didn’t happen. The potential was there for all to see though.
Vettel was second in Melbourne, until the tangle with Robert Kubica. In Malaysia Webber said he could have won had the heavy rain and red flag not arrived when it did.
In China it all came together for the team. The team opted to go light in qualifying and Vettel grabbed pole position with Mark Webber third. In the race the car was in a class of its own, and both Vettel and Webber drove brilliantly. The Red Bull seems to work really well in the wet conditions.
The car was very well balanced, and kept its heat in the tyres more efficiently than anyone else. They were so fast that their light fuel load didn’t put them at a disadvantage at all.
Vettel’s move on Jenson Button for the lead after his final pit stop (and before Jenson’s last stop) demonstrated how much quicker Red Bull was.
At times Sebastien Vettel was over two seconds a lap quicker than his nearest opponents. Unlike most other drivers in the race he didn’t make a single error all afternoon. He made it look so simple, which the sign of a great driver.
He has a great feel for tricky conditions, just as he showed at Monza last season. This race has shown us that the victory in Monza wasn’t just a one-off. If anything this performance was even more impressive
He really is the real deal and surely a future world champion. The added pressure on him this season doesn’t seem to be getting to him at all. He also isn’t getting carried away with his success. He still has the same charming personality and has his feet firmly on the ground. He has the maturity of a driver well beyond his years.
Mark Webber will be disappointed not to have won the first race for the team. However, he still finished a very strong second, and is right up there with Vettel in the championship standings. Considering the tough winter that Mark Webber has had, he can still feel very proud.
If someone had told him after his accident (when he broke his leg) that he would get a second place within the first three races of 2009 he probably wouldn’t have believed them. Apparently he is still limping slightly when he isn’t in the car.
Red Bull will now be hoping they can get their new diffuser sorted out as soon as possible. Once they have got that sorted they will be a real force to be reckoned with.
Brawn GP still have the fastest car but China demonstrated their only major flaw
Red Bull may have dominated this week, but Brawn GP are still the quickest team on the grid. Fuel corrected Barrichello was actually the real star of qualifying. Button was second quickest when you took fuel loads into account, whereas the Red Bulls would only have been fourth and fifth.
In dry conditions Brawn GP’s race pace is also still stronger. The car is easy on it’s tyres so therefore is quick at the end of a race stint. Had the race have been dry Brawn GP ought to have cruised to another one-two, once the race strategies had played out.
However the race was wet and this changed things completely for Brawn GP. Brawn GP have hardly done any running with this car in the wet. This race shows that the car doesn’t work brilliantly in these conditions. The car had trouble keeping heat into it’s tyres, and that’s why it struggled to keep the Red Bull cars in sight.
Brawn GP won in Malaysia mainly because Button had the race won before the storm arrived. In the wet they were then able to hold onto their position. Button had commented back then that the car was badly balanced in the wet.
Brawn GP will have to work on making sure the car works more effectively in the wet conditions in the future.
Finishing third and fourth, though is still a very useful result. Button has scored 26 points out of the first 30 available. Brawn GP are also still comfortably ahead in the Constructors championship. That is great championship form. If you had told Jenson last season that he would score 26 points in the first three races of 2009 he probably would have fainted.
Again he beat Rubens Barrichello comfortably. He is now starting to establish a clear gap over Rubens. Rubens needs respond to his team mate or risk ending up in the same situation as he did at Ferrari.
Overall losing this race hasn’t done Brawn that much harm, especially as Red Bull had only scored one point before this race.
If it is hot and dry in Bahrain as you would expect then Brawn GP should be victorious again. However Red Bull are closing in.
1. Button Brawn GP (B) 55:30.622 2. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) + 22.722 3. Glock Toyota (B) + 23.513 4. Trulli Toyota (B) + 46.173 5. Barrichello Brawn GP (B) + 47.360 6. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) + 52.333 7. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 60.733 8. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) + 71.576 9. Massa Ferrari (B) + 76.93210. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 102.16411. Alonso Renault (B) + 109.42212. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) + 116.13013. Piquet Renault (B) + 116.73114. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) + 142.84115. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) + 1 lap16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 1 lap17. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) + 1 lap18. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) + 2 lap
This was turning out to be a great race. It’s a shame it had to get shortened by the track was far too wet, and it was getting dark due to the late start time.
Button drove brilliantly today. Those 2 laps before his first pit stop were just MEGA. That is exactly what Schumacher was so good at doing.
What was also extremely impressive was that move on Alonso. To overtake a cars with KERs (when he didn’t have it himself) was going to take some doing, and he managed it, and then stayed ahead down the straight. It was a very good opportunistic move. He could have ended up being stuck behind Alonso for ages otherwise, just as Raikkonen was.
Overall Button impressed me immensely today. Such a shame there was only half points today because he deserved all 10.
Button is going to take some beating. I see no reason why he can’t get the hat-trick in China.
Still no points for Ferrari though. Two bad calls this weekend. One to not send Massa out for another lap in Q1, and putting inters on Kimi’s car when the track was still dry. It’s ok to gamble when you are in 20th place, but Kimi was running solidly in 5th place.