McLaren F1 team principal Martin Whitmarsh’s conciliatory and apologetic attitude to Wednesday’s meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council, facing squarely up to the British team’s already-admitted offence of bringing the sport into disrepute, paid dividends when McLaren received a three race suspended exclusion from the world championship.

The penalty, which will only be activated if McLaren commit a similar offence in the future, is widely regarded as relatively mild, reflecting the desire of everybody in the sport, from the governing body down, to draw a line under this disappointing episode which has to some extent clouded the first four races in what promises to be a fascinating 2009 title battle.

Lewis Hamilton, who had previously apologised profusely for his part in the deception during the Australian Grand Prix which initially resulted in Toyota’s Jarno Trulli being cheated out of third place for apparently illegally passing the McLaren driver during a safety car period, will be able to continue his world championship defence in the Spanish GP on 10 May knowing that he can now put the episode behind him.

“Martin Whitmarsh made a very good impression,” said FIA president Max Mosley approvingly. “He is straightforward and wants to work with us.”

It obviously went unsaid that Mosley was relieved that he no longer had to deal with his old sparring partner Ron Dennis, the former McLaren team principal who relinquished his position to Whitmarsh earlier this year.  In that sense at least, the WMSC gathering in Paris certainly marked the end of an era.

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