Hamilton apologizes; Ryan suspended

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Lewis Hamilton made an emotional apology Friday 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, and there was speculation whether Hamilton would be disqualified from future races.

Race stewards ruled that McLaren deliberately misled stewards at the Australian Grand Prix about Hamilton's role in an exchange of third place with Toyota's Jarno Trulli while they were behind the safety car.

Hamilton on Friday 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.

"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 at a press conference. "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."

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 new stewards' hearing into the Melbourne event was held at the Malaysian Grand Prix meeting on Thursday, with audio evidence of the team radio transmissions, a media interview by Hamilton after the race and the stewards' hearing.

Thursday's hearing overturned the Melbourne verdict, giving third place back to Trulli and excluding McLaren and Hamilton from the results.

The matter could 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.

"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."

Asked about the potential for further action from Formula One's governing body, Hamilton said "I am sure the FIA will act accordingly and in the right way. I don't know what else is going to happen in the future."

Hamilton said he had no input into the team decision to suspend Ryan, describing him as "a good guy".

Whitmarsh said discussed the situation with Ryan before deciding to suspend him.

"As we explored it more with him over the past 24 hours, he was not as full and complete as he should have been," Whitmarsh said. "I had to take an incredibly difficult decision. I have personally known Davy for 20 years."

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.

"The team and myself are not only deeply embarrassed but deeply regretful."

Whitmarsh said a decision on Ryan's future with the team will be decided after this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.