“Lie-gate” soap opera rolls on, Hamilton moving to Brawn?

The names Brawn and Ron Dennis have entered the ‘lie-gate’ saga, as McLaren prepares to face an FIA hearing following the Bahrain grand prix later this month.

With his reputation in tatters, a furious Lewis Hamilton and his father Anthony are said to be seriously considering leaving the team. “They may not have much money yet, but Hamilton’s pulling power would soon see to that and the proposed budget cap for next year would put them on a more level footing with the manufacturer teams,” an article in the Telegraph read, referring to speculation that 24-year-old Hamilton might switch to the dominant Brawn GP team.

Other British newspapers, including the Daily Mail, are raising questions about Ron Dennis’ involvement in the saga, as current boss Martin Whitmarsh weighs up his own future in charge of the team.

It is suggested that chairman Dennis may have spoken to the sacked Dave Ryan between the Australian stewards meeting and the one in Malaysia, and also that he “was strongly opposed” to Hamilton’s contrite apology in front of the world’s media at Sepang.

The implication is that the 61-year-old, unlike Whitmarsh who was holidaying between the two races, could join Ryan in becoming a ‘sacrificial lamb’, leaving Whitmarsh and Hamilton able to continue as before. “We really cannot comment on these things because we’re now into a court situation,” a spokesman said.

Both Hamilton and his father/manager attended a meeting at McLaren’s Woking base on Tuesday.

Meanwhile it is possible McLaren will be banned from a number of races should the World Motor Sport Council take a dim view of the ‘lie-gate’ scandal at the April 29 meeting.

Bernie Ecclestone told the UK newspaper Express that the serious charge of lying to stewards and bringing the sport into disrepute is worsened by McLaren’s recent trouble over espionage. “It is never good for anyone if you are back in court quickly for something similar,” the F1 chief executive said.

The FIA body has essentially unlimited powers: from race bans, total exclusion from the championship, to draconian financial penalties, like the $100m fine levied against McLaren in 2007 for spying.

Ecclestone admitted that McLaren figures lying to the stewards to have Jarno Trulli penalised amounted to “fraud”. “There are many options open if the charge sticks and it would be a terrible thing if any team were banned from races. But it could happen,” he said.

In 2005, BAR-Honda was banned for two races for fielding a trick fuel tank.