Sat, Apr 04, 2009 - Page 20 News List

McLaren axe veteran sporting director

AP , KUALA LUMPUR

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes steers his car during the second practice session at the Sepang circuit outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yesterday. The Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia will take place tomorrow.

PHOTO: EPA

McLaren suspended long-­standing sporting director Dave Ryan yesterday, blaming him for the misleading statements to stewards that resulted in Lewis Hamilton’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh sent Ryan home shortly before opening practice for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Ryan, who has been with the team for 35 years, accompanied Hamilton to the post-race stewards hearing in Melbourne which punished Jarno Trulli for overtaking the Briton when behind the safety car.

Hamilton yesterday confirmed that Ryan instructed him, immediately before a stewards hearing, not to tell the stewards that the team advised Hamilton to pull over and let Trulli through.

That omission of evidence led stewards to strip Trulli of third place and award it to Hamilton, until this Thursday when the full evidence came to light, Hamilton and McLaren were disqualified for deliberately misleading stewards and Trulli reinstated to third.

Hamilton came clean at a press conference yesterday.

“This situation is the worst thing I have experienced in my life,” Hamilton said. “I have never felt so bad. It’s right for me as a human being and as a man to tell you exactly what went on.”

Hamilton said he was “instructed and misled” by Ryan to withhold evidence.

“I am not a liar and I am not a dishonest person,” Hamilton said. “I am a team player and every time I have been informed to do something I have done it. This time I realized it was a huge mistake, and I am learning from it. It’s taken a huge toll on me.”

Hamilton said he had no input into the team decision to suspend Ryan.

Whitmarsh said that he and Ryan discussed the situation on ­Thursday night and yesterday morning before the decision was made to suspend him.

“As we explored it more with him over the past 24 hours, he was not as full and complete as he should have been,” Whitmarsh said. “I had to take an incredibly difficult decision. I have personally known Davy for 20 years.”

Whitmarsh acknowledged Hamilton also misled the stewards, but said he was acting on Ryan’s lead.

“Lewis was not entirely truthful,” Whitmarsh said. “In the heat of the moment, [Ryan’s] judgment was to not give a truthful account, and Lewis was led by that. The team and myself are not only deeply embarrassed but deeply regretful.”

Whitmarsh said a decision on Ryan’s future with the team would be made after the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Kimi Raikkonen set the scene for a Ferrari comeback by setting the fastest time in practice yesterday.

Raikkonen’s time of 1 minute, 35.707 seconds in the afternoon session was faster than last year’s pole-winning time set by teammate Felipe Massa, who was second-quickest yesterday, one-eighth of a second behind.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, Williams’ Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber of Red Bull followed the Ferrari pair.

Brawn drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, who finished 1-2 in last weekend’s ­season-opening Australian Grand Prix, were sixth and seventh on the time sheets, ahead of ­Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima.

Raikkonen’s strong showing shook off doubts about the reliability of the Ferrari after a mishap in morning practice, when smoke began billowing into the cockpit and streaming from the rear of the car.

Ferrari did not disclose the problem, amid reports of an overheating KERS energy storage device.

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