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Lewis Hamilton

F1's biggest scandals: Hamilton disqualified for lying to the stewards

In the early stages of his career, Lewis Hamilton was not always the best boy in the class. In 2009, his team forced him to lie, after which he was caught and disqualified.

Hamilton 2009
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The 2000s was a decade full of unusual situations, fights and scandals in Formula 1. Teams were pushing the technical boundaries with BAR being found guilty of running a second fuel tank, to McLaren being chucked out of the 2007 Constructors' and fined $100 million for Spygate.

That's before the debacle of Indianapolis in 2005 that shredded F1's image in the US.

In this story, we go back 14 years and take a look at the controversial opening race of the 2009 season - the race that Brawn GP debuted and incredibly claimed a one-two finish with Jenson Button setting up his title-winning campaign.

This was the first race for the new major aerodynamic rules that had de-cluttered and simplified the cars, with Brawn's double-diffuser stealing all the headlines. Whether it was legal or not remains a fascinating debating point to this day...

Anyhow, both Ferrari and McLaren had fumbled the new rules, having poured so much into the 2008 fight with the F-60 and MP4-24 both turning out to be awful at the start of the year.

However, Lewis Hamilton - in his first race as reigning World Champion - finished third, having overtaken Jarno Trulli's Toyota under a late Safety Car after the Italian skated off the track.

That was fair enough, but what followed led to 'Lie-gate' and Hamilton being chucked out of the race and a long-serving McLaren employee being sacked.

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The 'lie-gate' scandal

After a crash between Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica, the Safety Car came onto the track, with Trulli running third and Hamilton fourth.

McLaren summoned the brand-new world champion via radio to let the Toyota car back past, which Hamilton did on the exit of Turn 4, but while the Safety Car still on-track, technically meaning that Trulli had overtaken Hamilton, and was duly hit with a 25 second time penalty.

This was based on evidence provided by Hamilton and team manager Dave Ryan that no instructions to allow the Toyota back through had been transmitted over the radio.

Next time out in Malaysia, a interview was discovered that seemingly contradicted that, with the radio communications proving Hamilton had lied to the stewards with the Briton being clearly told to let Trulli back through.

Hamilton was promptly disqualified from the Australian GP, and the team hit with a suspended ban from the FIA, providing no similar incidents happened again.

Ryan was sacked for misleading the stewards, while a truthful Hamilton apologised to the stewards and media.

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Hamilton almost hung up his helmet on the willows

Some years later, Hamilton admitted he almost wanted to quit F1 in the aftermath. "It was a lot to deal with after everything that had happened," he revealed. "I care a lot about the way people look at me."

"I thought: 'Hey, maybe I shouldn't be here in this sport'. But McLaren is my dream team and I should count myself lucky to have raced here since the beginning of my F1 career. I've never wanted to drive for another team, so at that point it wasn't a desire to leave the team, it was just to stop racing. For a moment I thought, 'This is too much to handle. How do I come back from this?'."

But the people around Hamilton knew how to get him through it.

"I love racing, but I just didn't know ... sometimes it's just hard to deal with the consequences. It's hard to deal with people who as soon as you turn their back on them immediately talk about you. It created negative energy and I don't like that."

"However, I quickly realized that it wasn't just negative energy and that I received a lot of support and respect.

That made me stronger. It was an extraordinary experience. I can't predict the future, but I love the sport, I've always said that. I love winning, in a fair way. Integrity is very important to me."

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