Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2009, 12:00am

My mother always used to tell me that it wasn't my being naughty that made her cross, more the fact I had lied to her about it. It must be the way the FIA is feeling about McLaren at the moment. It's not the naughty step that is beckoning for the British team though; it's something much worse.

McLaren are up before the beaks at the end of the month as a result of lying to the stewards in Australia, and it's hard not to worry for their future. It's distinctly possible the team could be thrown out of the season's championship. And let's be honest, after the 'Spygate' affair a couple of seasons ago, they have form.

Many people defended McLaren in 2007. That sympathy will have evaporated this time out. One of F1's fascinations is the ability to bend the rules to suit. But this is outright lying to gain a podium place and it's indefensible.

The really sad thing is the damage to Lewis Hamilton's reputation. Despite winning the championship last year, for some reason he has struggled to win the affection of the public. This isn't going to help the charm offensive. He's shown genuine contrition, and seems deeply upset by the whole affair. It still doesn't change the fact he didn't have the strength of character to refuse to go along with the charade. Comparisons are being made with Michael Schumacher, but not in a complimentary manner.

There's another storm brewing over F1, this time more literally. Have you ever seen a storm like the one that erupted over Sepang during the Malaysian GP? It took a while to get going but then the full majesty of a tropical downpour was unleashed. Lightning strikes on the main grandstand blacked out TV pictures momentarily and more amusingly made the commentators almost jump out of their skins.

Back on the track it was highly unusual to see the drivers' usual bravado melt away. Sebastian Bordais was screaming over the radio that 'this race needs to end', and when the red flag was finally shown Mark Webber was busy canvassing other drivers to try to make sure the race didn't restart. When he left Hamilton's car, one of the McLaren mechanics was seen to make chicken gestures, which surely was a bit harsh.

It was a revealing insight to these drivers' psyche. Normally so calm and collected, it shows they are human after all. Perhaps the most revealing radio call was from Ferrari. Felipe Massa was shouting for a clear visor for his helmet. The team told him to calm down.

You can understand their flustered state. At times the drivers could have run faster than their cars. Jenson Button said he was aquaplaning on full wet tyres at 30km/h. The most succinct quote was from Webber: 'This isn't racing, this is waiting for a T-bone on the back straight'.

Obviously the weather is in the lap of the gods, but this fiasco is at least partly down to Bernie Ecclestone. He has insisted on late starts to the first two races to fit in with European television audiences. But thunderstorms in the late afternoon are the norm around Sepang. By the time it had abated it was too dark to restart the race. The drivers have recommended these twilight races be brought forward by an hour. It seems a small price for the television companies to pay to actually have a race to show.

A vivid illustration of how difficult it is to drive a Formula One car in the dry, let alone the wet came in Dubai at the weekend. Mohammed bin Sulayem is no slouch when it comes to racing. The 14-time Middle East rally champion and a FIA vice-president was at the wheel of a Renault at the Dubai Autodrome for a drag race against one of his own GT cars. A couple of seconds after racing away from the line, the car snapped to the right and smashed into the wall. Watch it on YouTube and reflect on how special the 20 drivers who line up on the F1 grid really are.