Whitmarsh hoping for leniency on McLaren

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh will be hoping the World Motor Sport Council do not wreck his birthday any more than they already have done today.

On the occasion of his 51st, and although in Paris, Whitmarsh would surely have preferred to have enjoyed the day any other way than facing a grilling by the WMSC over the ’lie-gate’ saga.

No presents can be expected as a penalty is certain, although not as draconian as 18 months ago when McLaren were fined £50m (€55.7m) and thrown out of the constructors’ championship over ’spy-gate’.

A pro-active approach, designed to soften today’s blow, has been adopted over the past few weeks since Lewis Hamilton and former sporting director Dave Ryan were caught lying to stewards.

Whitmarsh is eager to foster a more harmonious relationship with motor sport’s world governing body, the FIA, than has previously been the case.

“We’re trying to build a relationship with the FIA, and beyond that looking ahead,” confirmed Whitmarsh.

“Historically, on moderate regulation issues we’ve always had that relationship.

“But I think we have to build in some other areas of that to make sure we steer this team in the right direction.

“I’ve been working with the FIA most recently, and I’m grateful for the support they’ve given me and this team.

“Hopefully that is the start of us building a better relationship in the future.

“I’m pushing hard to take this team forward, and that’s what we are going to try and do.”

In answering five charges of bringing F1 into disrepute, Whitmarsh will adopt a non-confrontational approach because after reading a statement, he will take questions without legal representation.

McLaren’s company lawyer, Timothy Murnane, will accompany Whitmarsh to the extraordinary hearing of the WMSC, although his brief is an observational one.

Whitmarsh will be hoping the actions taken by himself and his team after Hamilton and Ryan were caught lying to stewards of the Australian Grand Prix will lead to a degree of clemency.

Once the truth was unearthed, Hamilton and McLaren were subsequently disqualified, and at that stage the team faced serious sanctions.

But since then, Hamilton has apologised, Ryan has been sacked, and more pertinently, Ron Dennis has stood down as McLaren Group chairman and CEO of McLaren Racing.

Following Dennis’ exit, Whitmarsh then set about patching-up the team’s previously sore relationship with the FIA.

Notably, he threw himself at the mercy of the FIA by writing a letter admitting his team’s guilt and apologising unreservedly for the actions taken.

In Bahrain, during the course of the grand prix weekend, there were a number of key meetings that took place as further steps were made to try and limit the damage.

Richard Lapthorne, not due to succeed Dennis as chairman until June 1, was on hand, along with Whitmarsh to stage a very public meeting with Alan Donnelly, FIA president Max Mosley’s right-hand man.

Several other meetings took place behind the scenes, and today we will discover whether they have had a positive impact.

With Hamilton in the clear, as the FIA accept he was put in an “impossible position” by Ryan, any penalty will be against the team.

No one is anticipating McLaren will face a race ban or be excluded from the championship, with a fine, suspended sentence or points deduction in the constructors’ the likely penalties.

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