Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren F1 team principal, will be hoping to draw some of the sting out of the British team’s appearance in front of the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) on Wednesday.
He will be the team’s only representative to speak in connection with charges that they brought the sport into disrepute over the so-called ‘Lie-gate’ scandal stemming from the behaviour of Lewis Hamilton and former sporting director Dave Ryan at the Australian Grand Prix.
During a safety car period in the closing stages of the first race of the season Ryan told Hamilton over the radio to allow Jarno Trulli’s Toyota to re-pass his McLaren, knowing that such a move would trick Trulli into being penalised, as passing is forbidden when the safety car is deployed. Ryan and Hamilton subsequently denied this was the case to the stewards on two separate occasions.
Whitmarsh, who has already sent a letter of apology to the FIA, is understood to have made the decision himself to appear in front of the World Motor Sport Council without the customary barrage of expensive QCs who usually attend such events. Whitmarsh, who assumed control of the McLaren F1 squad as Ron Dennis’s successor only two months ago, will read a prepared statement to the WMSC and then take questions. He will be accompanied only by Tim Murnane, the McLaren group’s lawyer, who will not be speaking.
Team insiders hope that the low-key and apologetic approach will go some way towards mitigating the seriousness of any penalty. Hamilton and the team could theoretically both be banned, but sources close to the FIA suggest that a big fine and a suspended exclusion from several races, triggered only if there is a further rule infringement, will be more likely.