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'Misled' Hamilton says sorry for lying

LEWIS Hamilton made an emotional apology yesterday for deceiving Formula One stewards, after McLaren suspended its long-standing sporting director Dave Ryan for masterminding the misleading statements at last weekend's race.

McLaren said Ryan was to blame for the deception, but speculation continued about whether Hamilton would be disqualified from future races as well, or even the entire season.

Race stewards ruled that McLaren deliberately misled stewards at last weekend's Australian Grand Prix, during a hearing about Hamilton's role in an exchange of third place with Jarno Trulli while it was behind the safety car.

Hamilton yesterday admitted to backing up Ryan's misleading version of events by telling stewards he received no instruction from the team to yield third place to Trulli, when in fact he had.

"This situation is the worst thing I have experienced in my life," Hamilton said. "I have never felt so bad. It's right for me as a human being and as a man to tell you exactly what went on."

Hamilton, the defending champion, said he was "instructed and misled" by Ryan to withhold evidence.

"I am not a liar and I am not a dishonest person," Hamilton said. "I am a team player and every time I have been informed to do something I have done it. This time I realized it was a huge mistake, and I am learning from it. It's taken a huge toll on me."

A fresh stewards' hearing into the Melbourne event was held at the Malaysian Grand Prix meeting on Thursday, with audio evidence of the team radio transmissions and a media interview Hamilton gave between the end of the race and the stewards' hearing. Thursday's hearing overturned the Melbourne verdict, giving third place back to Toyota's Trulli and excluding McLaren and Hamilton from the results.

However the matter could go further and be referred to the World Motor Sports Council, with the available penalties including suspending McLaren or Hamilton from future races or this year's entire championship.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh would not comment on whether he would consider his own position as a result of the scandal, but said Ryan acted without higher team authority in electing to withhold information from the stewards.

Hamilton detailed the events yesterday in a press conference.

"While waiting for the stewards I was instructed and misled by my team manager to withhold information, and that is what I did," Hamilton said. "I sincerely apologize to the stewards for wasting their time and for making them look silly. I would like to say a big sorry to all my fans who have believed in me, who have supported me for years."

Whitmarsh said he and Ryan discussed the situation on Thursday night and yesterday morning before the decision was made to suspend him.

Whitmarsh acknowledged Hamilton also misled the stewards, but said he was acting on Ryan's lead. "Lewis was not entirely truthful," Whitmarsh said. "In the heat of the moment, (Ryan's) judgment was to not give a truthful account, and Lewis was led by that."

Renault driver Fernando Alonso, who drove for McLaren in 2007, offered scathing criticism of his former team.

"It's not the first time they've lied to the stewards and, late or not, they have to be sanctioned," Alonso said.

Alonso was ruled to have impeded Hamilton's final qualifying lap at the 2007 Hungarian GP by sitting motionless in the pit lane following a tire change, and was demoted from pole position to sixth.

Hamilton went on to earn the victory and Alonso said he was just following team orders.

"I lost the championship by one point and in Hungary they played a bad game with me," the two-time world champion said yesterday.


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