McLaren were yesterday handed a suspended three-race ban for bringing the sport into disrepute, motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, announced.
Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes-backed British-based team were in the dock on five counts of misleading stewards at the season-opening race in Melbourne.
The FIA said in a statement that, at an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council (WSMC), McLaren had “admitted five charges of breaching article 151c of the International Sporting Code relating to events at the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix.”
“Having regard to the open and honest way in which McLaren Team Principal, Mr Martin Whitmarsh, addressed the WMSC and the change in culture which he made clear has taken place in his organization, the WMSC decided to suspend the application of the penalty it deems appropriate,” the FIA said.
“That penalty is a suspension of the team from three races of the FIA Formula One World Championship. This will only be applied if further facts emerge regarding the case or if, in the next 12 months, there is a further breach by the team of article 151c of the International Sporting Code,” it said.
In Melbourne, Toyota driver Jarno Trulli slid off the track when the safety car was out and was passed by Hamilton who then let the Italian re-overtake.
The stewards in Australia promoted Hamilton to third, ruling that Trulli had illegally overtaken the world champion after being told by Hamilton and McLaren’s sporting director Dave Ryan that there had been no instructions to let Trulli pass.
At a second meeting Hamilton and Ryan stuck to their story, only for it to later emerge that Hamilton had in fact let Trulli pass, on instructions from his team.
The fall-out for McLaren has already been extensive, with the widely respected Ryan sacked and Ron Dennis stepping aside as team boss, to be replaced by Whitmarsh.
Hamilton, who issued a public apology after the incident, has escaped punishment from the FIA.
The Briton, whose title defense has got off to a wretched start, has taken just nine points from the first four races of the season, 22 points adrift of compatriot Jenson Button of the Brawn team.