Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Whitmarsh makes defence of Hamilton

Monday 6th April 2009

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh is convinced people will judge Lewis Hamilton to be "a great world champion," but also recognise "he is human."

Not even the torrential downpour that soaked the Sepang circuit and brought a premature halt to on Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix managed to wash away the stain of the latest furore to tarnish McLaren.

The FIA will on Monday receive a report from their observer and the stewards at the Australian Grand Prix into the storm that resulted in the suspension of McLaren's sporting director Dave Ryan and the besmirching of the name of reigning world champion Hamilton.

Just 19 months after the resolution of 'spy-gate' the World Motor Sport Council may now be summoned to look into 'lie-gate' and the web of deceit spun immediately after the Albert Park race.

The World Motor Sports Council has it within their power to impose sanctions on McLaren should the reports recommend further investigation into the matter.

As for Hamilton, his exclusion from the race, and subsequent act of contrition in front of the world's media on Friday, would appear to suggest he is off the hook.

But there remains a question mark over the long-term damage to his reputation and character, with some critics drawing comparisons to Michael Schumacher and his occasional win-at-all-costs tactics.

"Lewis has openly and bravely admitted what he has done wrong, and he has apologised," remarked Whitmarsh.

Pointedly, bearing in mind seven-times champion Schumacher failed to say sorry for his misdemeanours, Whitmarsh added: "I think that is in contrast with some other things that have happened in F1, so I think there is a difference."

Whitmarsh feels it is easy for people to point accusing fingers and forget drivers make errors under extreme pressure and considering the unforgiving spotlight that can focus upon them.

"At the heart of this process are a group of committed, dedicated, hard-working individuals who are fallible, and have made some mistakes in the heat of the moment," assessed Whitmarsh.

"They are damaging, but I think people understand that no-one is perfect.

"From that, it is for people to decide whether they forgive and balance the equation of the greatness of various people.

"I fully acknowledge and have a great passion for drivers, and that the public ultimately are interested in the driver achievements and their bravery.

"But all of the 20 drivers that take to the grid are extraordinary young men with huge bravery, who participate in a very dangerous, very exhausting, very challenging contest.

"Sometimes there is a sense, when we talk about F1, that we don't always appreciate that.

"Now I have been very fortunate to work with a lot of great, great drivers, and Lewis is very much one of those.

"People will ultimately judge him to be a great world champion, and hopefully a great multiple world champion, and they will recognise he is human."

Whilst Whitmarsh appreciates Hamilton is also his own man with his own thoughts, and therefore capable of acting independently rather than being led, he also knows McLaren failed the 24-year-old.

"I think Lewis has an enormous humanity," added Whitmarsh.

"He has put his hand up and said he has made some mistakes, and that he is deeply regretful of that.

"He was very brave in making the statements he did over the course of the weekend, and for our part we are trying to put our hand up and demonstrate our concern and humility over what happened.

"Lewis is still a young man, but he is a world champion and he has to be accountable and responsible for his actions.

"He is also an important ambassador to this sport, and I think the greatest shame is we at McLaren didn't lead him well enough to uphold the standards he intended to or wanted to."

Source : Planet F1

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