McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh is adamant that his team and Lewis Hamilton did not 'lie' to race stewards about their safety car incident with Jarno Trulli at the Australian Grand Prix - despite being punished for providing 'deliberately misleading' information.
With Hamilton being stripped on Thursday of his third-placed finish in Melbourne for he and the team failing to provide a full account of what happened in the closing stages of the Australian Grand Prix, Whitmarsh says there should be no questions about his team's honesty.
"There was no lie in that hearing," said Whitmarsh, who claims the team's error at the hearing was in not providing full information about a radio conversation with Hamilton instructing him to let Trulli overtake him.
"We, the team, made a mistake. We did not provide a full account of a radio conversation which we believe was being listened to in any case, and we don't believe was material to the decisions being made by the stewards."
Whitmarsh confirmed comments made by Hamilton in the immediate aftermath of the race that the team instructed its driver to let Trulli pass him.
Explaining exactly what happened after Hamilton overtook Trulli, when the Toyota driver ran off the track at the final corner, Whitmarsh said McLaren had been trying to play it safe.
"As we see it, what happened here is that during the closing stages of the Australian Grand Prix, under difficult conditions, there was a safety car incident whereby Jarno Trulli fell off the circuit and Lewis [Hamilton] could legitimately pass Trulli. I don't think that is in question," he explained.
"Once that had happened, of course, the team could not see it. Lewis informed the team that he had passed Trulli - and there was understandably concern within the team that he had passed Trulli under a safety car.
"At that time, we did not know that Trulli was right off the circuit and Lewis was asked to give back the place to Trulli. That was a team view, having not seen it, and we thought it was the safest thing to do.
"Once that instruction was given to Lewis, he did not agree. He said: 'Look, the guy was off the circuit, I didn't need to do this.' A discussion was occurring and before that discussion was finished, Trulli had re-passed. If we look at the speed traces at that time, and compare it to other periods behind the safety car, then Lewis did not do anything abnormal. And I think it is also quite clear that Trulli should not have re-passed.
"As soon as that happened, we then spoke to Race Control, to explain that and ask if we could retake that place. At the time, understandably Race Control was busy and they were not able to give us an answer. We asked several times, but clearly they were very busy. So we had to then deal with it. We felt it would be resolved by the stewards after the race.
"At the stewards' meeting, we mistakenly believed that the stewards were aware, Charlie [Whiting] was there, and the FIA was there, of that radio conversation. The stewards now believe that we were not explicit enough about that radio conversation, and felt therefore that that was prejudicial to the decision that they reached. Obviously we regret that, and that was a mistake by the team, but we have got to accept the decision that has now been made."
McLaren has decided not to appeal the stewards' decision, which promoted Trulli to the third place that Hamilton originally had in Australia.
Whitmarsh added: "I think it is a regrettable day, and the fact is, the belief is, that we were not explicit. But I don't believe that that information would have made any difference to the decisions and the deliberations at the time.
"It certainly was not a deliberate attempt. It is quite clear that the radio conversations are listened to by the FIA, they are open, and the FIA was present during that hearing. So in the opinion of the team representative, there was a belief that it was known and there had been a conversation with the FIA."
Hamilton was unavailable for comment, having left the track shortly after the FIA decision was made.
The FIA said Hamilton and McLaren could face further sanctions for the breach of article 151C.