After being cleared by a FIA inquiry in mid-week into what appeared to be dangerous driving in the Japanese Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton made a pig’s ear of the Chinese GP when only 25 laps from the World Championship title.
Later, he was man enough to admit he’d misjudged the state of his tyres when forced to retire by erratic road-holding.
The race was won by Kimi Raikkonen, with Fernando Alonso second. The result sets up a three-way fight for the championship in the final Grand Prix of the season in Brazil.
Hamilton will kick himself all the way to the bank if he loses the title now.
After taking a one-two win in the Italian Grand Prix over local rivals Ferrari (Alonso 1st, Lewis Hamilton 2nd), McLaren came back to earth today as FIA, F1′s ruling body, imposed a gigantic $100m (Â£50m) fine on Ron Dennis’s crack racing team.
McLaren has also been eliminated from this season’s Constructors’ Championship, and possibly next’s as well.
At least Hamilton retains his points, and 3-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship in his rookie season.
The fine, however, is so huge, it may just be a warning shot to all the teams that espionage against rivals will not be tolerated. At appeal, it seems likely McLaren will be let off much of this impost. Why would FIA want to put them out of business?
More damaging allegations about who knew what and when at McLaren mean that Lewis Hamiltonâ€™s prospects of being penalised for the McLaren-Ferrari spying scandal increased dramatically yesterday.
The defence that only one man at McLaren â€“ Mike Coughlan, the designer who has been suspended â€“ knew about the 780-page dossier of technical information stolen from Ferrari. This is critical to McLarenâ€™s defence against a charge by the FIA, the sportâ€™s governing body, of â€œfraudulent conductâ€. But it is being steadily undermined as more allegations arise, especially in the Italian press.
In the High Court in London last week it emerged that Jonathan Neale, the McLaren managing director, knew about the dossier, though exactly when has not been confirmed, and, on Saturday, La Repubblica, the Italian daily newspaper, reported that several other team members had also been shown the documents.
It’s not looking good for Lewis Hamilton’s previously plausible championship hopes.
An addendum to the Monaco Grand Prix in which the McLaren team was investigated for “team orders” which allowed Fernando Alonso allegedly to beat Lewis Hamilton in the race.
However, FIA has cleared Ron Dennis of any breach of the rules in this case. The earlier FIA statement read : “The FIA has launched an investigation into incidents involving the McLaren Mercedes team.”
McLaren denied using team orders — banned since 2002 — but said they had employed team strategy instead — an interesting form of words.
The FIA investigation centred on the international sporting code, which states it will punish “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally”.
Earlier a McLaren spokesman was in bullish mood, insisting, “We are very confident about FIA’s investigation into our race strategy. We do not, and have not, manipulated Grands Prix unless there are some exceptional circumstances.”
McLaren team boss Ron Dennis said, “All the decisions that we took before and during the race respect perfectly the international sporting code.”
However, at a post-race news conference Dennis admitted he “virtually had to decide in advance” which driver would win because of the challenging nature of the tight street circuit in Monte Carlo.