Stewart ponders McLaren conspiracy theory

Jackie Stewart has brought into focus the latest conspiracy theory to surround McLaren.

Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen were both hit with penalties for Sunday’s French Grand Prix by race stewards representing world governing body the FIA.

Hamilton started the race at Magny-Cours from 13th due to a 10-place grid penalty for his shunt into the rear of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari in the pit lane in Montreal during the Canadian Grand Prix.

There were those who felt such a punishment was excessive, despite the stupidity of his error.

However, he suffered further early in the race when he was handed a drive-through penalty for gaining an advantage in passing the Toro Rosso of Sebastian Vettel, wrecking his bid for a points finish.

Again, it was suggested that was harsh, as was the five-place grid penalty handed to Kovalainen for apparently blocking Mark Webber’s Red Bull during Saturday qualifying.

In light of the way many felt McLaren were hounded by the FIA during last year’s spy scandal, these latest batch of penalties have stirred up strong emotions.

“A lot of people – and not McLaren personnel – are saying the FIA are more interested in finding faults at McLaren than at other teams,” said three-times former world champion Stewart.

“For example, in the French race, Kimi Raikkonen’s exhaust system broke and part of it was visibly hanging off the car.

“Why wasn’t he called into the pits to have the loose piece removed? That could have been the ’make it happen’ moment of the race.

“Eventually the loose bodywork flew off the car, which could easily have been dangerous to the public or to another driver.

“Some people will say that if it had happened with a McLaren, the team would have been fined.”

However, it has to be remembered Raikkonen was hit by a drive-through penalty of his own in the Monaco Grand Prix as Ferrari did not have his tyres fitted to the car at the appropriate time before the race.

As far as Hamilton is concerned, he may currently feel he is being picked on, not just by the stewards, but also the media who he roundly condemned on Sunday.

But as far as Stewart is concerned, it is yet another part of the learning curve for the 23-year-old.

Speaking in his column on the RBS sport website, Stewart added: “He’s now experiencing both the privilege and the penalty of celebrity. He’s excited the media so much, and now some people are starting to feel let down.

“But we should remember Lewis has only been in F1 for 15 months. He’s not the finished article yet, and it’s wrong to think he should be.

“He might not like to hear this, but he has a fundamental lack of experience at the top of the sport. If he asked for my advice, I’d say, ’take your time, and don’t expect too much of yourself’.

“I know because I’ve been there myself. I had a big accident in my second year, which I was lucky to survive.

“Over the next few years I changed. I gained experience, which gave me knowledge, which in turn enabled me to deliver.”

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