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!
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
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.
1. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:35.058 1:33.784 1:35.181
2. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:34.745 1:33.990 1:35.273
*** 3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:34.935 1:34.276 1:35.518***
** 4. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:34.681 1:34.387 1:35.651**
5. Glock Toyota (B) 1:34.907 1:34.258 1:35.690
6. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:35.083 1:34.547 1:35.750
7. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:35.027 1:34.222 1:35.797
8. Kubica BMW-Sauber (B) 1:35.166 1:34.562 1:36.106
9. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:35.476 1:34.456 1:36.170
10. Alonso Renault (B) 1:35.260 1:34.706 1:37.659
11. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (B) 1:35.110 1:34.769
12. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:35.341 1:34.788
13. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:35.280 1:34.905
14. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:35.023 1:34.924
15. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:35.507 1:35.431
16. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:35.642
17. Piquet Renault (B) 1:35.708
18. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:35.908
19. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:35.951
20. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:36.107
***dropped 10 places due to engine change**
**dropped 5 places for gearbox change**
1. Button Brawn-Mercedes 660
2. Trulli Toyota 656.5
3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 647
4. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 664.5
5. Glock Toyota 656.5
6. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 656
7. Webber Red Bull-Renault 656
8. Kubica BMW-Sauber 663
9. Raikkonen Ferrari 662.5
10. Alonso Renault 680.5
11. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 692
12. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 683.4
13. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 688
14. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 688.9
15. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 670.5
16. Massa Ferrari 689.5
17. Piquet Renault 681.9
18. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 680.5
19. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 655.5
20. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 686.5
It was another fantastic qualifying performance from Button today. Again he got pole position with more fuel than his immediate rivals. He will also be pleased that the first KERs car was only 7th.
However Toyota will give Brawn GP a fright tommorrow. It’s much closer than it was last weekend. Button should just be able to edge ahead but Trulli or Glock will push him all the way. Also Toyota have a proven reliability record. Brawn GP could have an issue with reliability here in these hot conditions.
If Raikkonen can utilise his KERs system and get a decent start then he could get involved in the battle for the victory.
Massa will have to make full use of his KERs system back in 16th place. Ferrari were extremely complacent. I am sure they won’t make that error again next time.
My prediction for the podium
However if it rains then it could turn into a real lottery.
1. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:25.211 1:24.855 1:26.202 19
2. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:25.006 1:24.783 1:26.505 21
3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:25.938 1:25.121 1:26.830 21
4. Kubica BMW-Sauber (B) 1:25.922 1:25.152 1:26.914 19
5. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:25.846 1:25.123 1:26.973 21
6. Glock Toyota (B) 1:25.499 1:25.281 1:26.975 19
7. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:25.844 1:25.319 1:27.033 21
8. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:26.194 1:25.265 1:27.127 20
9. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:25.899 1:25.380 1:27.163 21
10. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:25.427 1:25.241 1:27.246 20
11. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (B) 1:25.827 1:25.504 14
12. Alonso Renault (B) 1:26.026 1:25.605 12
13. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:26.074 1:25.607 16
14. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:26.184 1:25.726 15
15. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:26.454 no time 5
16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:26.503 10
17. Piquet Renault (B) 1:26.598 12
18. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:26.677 10
19. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:26.742 9
20. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:26.964 10
**Hamilton will start from the back due to a gearbox change***
That was certainly a thrilling session full of surprises. Brawn GP’s performance was absolutely fantastic. The car appears to be working brilliantly, and it should be even stronger over the race distance. It’s a fairytale performance. It’s amazing to think Button and Barrichello didn’t have a drive a few weeks ago. Now they are sharing the front row.
Vettel did extremely well to get third, and that is in a car without one of those diffuser systems. He had a tough weekend up to that point, so he did brilliantly.
Toyota and Ferrari will be quite disappointed with their performance. Both teams were hoping to be challenging at the front. They are furthur back than they would want to be. It will be interesting if KERs helps them at the start. Although it has to be said that overall KERs didn’t turn out to be much of an advantage at all. 5 of the 7 KERs cars didn’t even make it to the top 10 shootout.
Mclaren had a really bad day. 14th and Hamilton now at the back is a terrible result. Onboard the car didn’t look dreadful to drive. It’s just lacks grip, and overall speed. Hamilton will have to fight extremely hard tommorrow, but points look very unlikely.
Renault will be very unhappy too. Piquet didn’t even make it past Q1 just like he often did last season, and Alonso made an error, whichs means he didn’t make Q3.
As part of the cost cutting plans for the next season, there is going to be a gigantic limit on the amount of testing that can be done.
In fact, no testing will be allowed during the season whatsoever.
From now on we are only likely to see a bit of testing before Christmas, and then preseason testing in the New Year before a new season starts.
In terms of cost cutting that’s a good idea. It costs a lot of money to transport the cars, equipment and mechanics to the track where the teams plans to test.
Of course running the car itself costs money too along with track hire, etc.
The problem that the limits in testing present to test drivers and young talent
However something which has been overlooked is the negative knock-on effect this new measure, will have on test drivers and young talent. Being a test driver gave drivers the chance to show what they could do. It was often a good shopping window to get a drive in Formula One.
With no in season testing and limited testing between seasons, the existence of the full-time test driver as we know it is going to become practically extinct. There won’t be any point in being a full time test driver as during the season you will have nothing to do.
When it comes to the preseason testing, it becomes more important that the two race drivers get as much time in their new car as possible. From now on the amount of tests days that drivers, other than the race drivers will get are likely to be counted on just one hand, or two if they are lucky.
This lack of time will also limit the opportunities that young drivers get to show off their talents. Teams are however allowed limited time to test young drivers if they have tested a F1 car less than four times.
For some drivers like Lucas Di Grassi, this is no good as he has already exceeded that limit. That has already prompted Renault to give Romain Grosjean testing duties, as he hasn’t yet exceeded this limit. Therefore Lucas Di Grassi’s potential F1 career is currently stalled.
This new rule will make his chances of getting to F1 substantially harder than it was a few years ago.
Back in 2006 testing was far less limited. There was a total of 411,012 kilometres worth of testing completed by all the teams put together.
Here is the list of drivers who took part in the most test days that year.
1. Pedro De La Rosa 54
2. Heikki Kovalainen 47
3. Michael Schumacher 45
4. Nico Rosberg 44
5. Anthony Davidson 43
6. Felipe Massa 43
7. Alexander Wurz 42
8. Jenson Button 41
9. Jarno Trulli 40
10. Nick Heidfeld 40
11. Robert Kubica 39
12. Ricardo Zonta 38
13. Gary Paffett 37
14. David Coulthard 36
15. Rubens Barrichello 35