Hamilton is moral victor in Spa thriller

2008 Belgian Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his Spa win before the stewards took it from him
Lewis Hamilton celebrates his Spa win before the stewards took it from him

Lewis Hamilton won a thrilling Belgian Grand Prix – but the stewards’ decision to strip him of his hard-earned victory soured what would otherwise have been remembered as a magnificent race.

Kimi Raikkonen was poised to score a fourth consecutive win at Spa but Hamilton capitalised on a late rain shower to attack the Ferrari driver.

After a thrilling wheel-to-wheel duel Hamilton took the win as Raikkonen crashed. But after the race the stewards relegated Hamilton to third and handed victory to Felipe Massa.

Kimi Raikkonen takes the lead

The Belgian Grand Prix began and ended on a wet track but it was dry for the most part in between.

Lewis Hamilton got a perfect start from his 11th career pole position and scorched away from the chasing Ferraris.

Kimi Raikkonen took up second place by slipstreaming past team mate Felipe Massa at Kemmel but further back chaos broke out.

Jarno Trulli had made a sublime start, diving past a string of cars. But Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais braked too late at the first corner and brunched his nose into the back of Trulli’s Toyota.

Also in trouble was Heikki Kovalainen who bogged down terribly when the lights changed and tumbled down the order from third to 13th.

It got worse for Hamilton at the start of the second lap when Hamilton had a half-spin at the La Source hairpin. If he hadn’t pulled out such a large lead on the first tour he’d have fallen a long way back, but as it was he was able to rejoin in second behind Raikkonen.

Massa was third ahead of Fernando Alonso, who passed Mark Webber at Kemmel on the first lap. Trulli ran sixth before spinning at the chicane. Nelson Piquet Jnr took his place but slipped down the order after briefly taking Trulli’s place.

Heikki Kovalainen’s race gets worse

Kovalainen began to climb back through the field, taking Timo Glock, Nick Heidfeld, and then Piquet. Kubica surrendered seventh on lap eight but on the following lap a mis-timed move on Webber at the chicane tipped the Red Bull driver into a spin. Within a few minutes the stewards announced Kovalainen would get a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable accident.

At the front Hamilton kept within range of Raikkonen. The McLaren was much faster than the Ferrari in sectors one and three, but lost over half a second per lap in sector two. The gap stayed at around a second as Massa fell to 5.6s adrift by lap nine.

Hamilton was first to pit on lap 11 and it worked perfectly for Ferrari as he came out of the pits behind Kovalainen. For some reason McLaren were not of a mind to get Kovalainen out of the way by bringing him in for his penalty, or a pit stop.

Raikkonen pitted on the following lap and came out with Sebastien Bourdais, Kubica and Kovalainen between himself and Hamilton. Once they had pitted, Raikkonen’s lead had grown to 5.6s, and Massa had reduced Hamilton’s advantage to 4.4s.

Kovalainen’s pit stop and penalty left him 15th, and he spent six laps stuck behind David Coulthard. He eventually cleared the Red Bull and on lap 28 put a (clean) pass on Webber for ninth.

Lewis Hamilton catches Raikkonen

At the front the status quo seemed settled. Hamilton could only take a tenth out of Raikkonen’s lead occasionally. The the final set of pit stops changed the picture.

First, Hamilton had a shorter stop and gained two seconds on Raikkonen. Then, with both cars on the harder compound tyre, Hamilton reduced Raikkonen’s lead initially, the McLaren seeming to heat the tyres up more quickly. By lap 28 Raikkonen’s lead was down to 2.4s, but by then the Ferrari was up to speed and the gap stabilised once again.

Alonso had taken fourth ahead of the Toro Rosso duo. Heidfeld was seventh after a poor pit stop for team mate Kubica. But a final belt of rain was about to change everything.

As the rain began to fall lightly from lap 39 so Hamilton began to reduce Raikkonen’s lead further. By lap 40 it was under a second, but Hamilton had a brief moment of oversteer at the chicane and lost over a second.

Fight to the finish

As lap 42 began Hamilton cut 1.4s out of Raikkonen’s lead again and they charged into the chicane side-by-side, Hamilton on the outside. Raikkonen, with Hamilton fully alongside him, pushed the McLaren clean off the track, putting Hamilton in the lead. Hamilton dropped back and let Raikkonen re-pass him, as per the rules, but caught Raikkonen’s slipstream and passed him again at La Source.

It still wasn’t over. Halfway around lap 43 Hamilton had to dive off the track to avoid Nico Rosberg’s Williams, which was re-joining the circuit. Raikkonen charged between the pair of them and took the lead again – but only for a few metres, as he spun at the exit of Fagnes.

Raikkonen then lost it again at the exit of Blanchimont and swiped into the barriers. Race over, fourth consecutive win at Spa gone.

By now it was raining heavily but neither Hamilton nor Massa wanted to risk losing the lead by pitting for wet weather tyres. They crawled around the final tour, taking over two and a half minutes each.

Video of Hamilton and Raikkonen’s battle

Drama in the rain

Meanwhile seven drivers had switched to wet weather rubber. Nick Heidfeld, Timo Glock, Nico Rosberg, David Coulthard, Kazuki Nakajima and Jenson Button on lap 42, and Fernando Alonso on lap 43.

Heidfeld and Alonso cut through the dry-weather stragglers on the final lap to finish third and fourth, demoting Vettel (fifth), Kubica (sixth) and Bourdais (seventh). The latter had begun the final lap in third place. Alonso later said if he’d been switched to intermediate tyres one lap earlier he’d have won.

Glock took the final points-paying place but only until the stewards got their hands on him. He was relegated from eighth to ninth for having passed Webber under yellow flags. Appropriately, Webber was promoted to eighth in his place.

The other drama on the final lap was the sudden disappearance of Kovalainen, who came to a halt on the Kemmel straight having been seventh.

Video of the last laps at Spa

More about Timo Glock’s penalty

Controversy after the flag

Sadly the drama was not to end at the chequered flag. The stewards determined after the race that Hamilton had gained an advantage by cutting the chicane while racing Raikkonen, and added 25 seconds to his race time, leaving him third behind Massa and Heidfeld.

Glock received the same penalty for passing Webber under yellow flags and was dropped from eighth to ninth behind the Red Bull driver.

The stationary Kovalainen was classified tenth ahead of Coulthard, Rosberg and Adrian Sutil, who moved ahead of Nakajima and Button when the rain fell, Trulli was 16th ahead of compatriot Fisichella, and the crashed-but-classified Raikkonen.

The only non-finishers were Rubens Barrichello, who load sixth gear, and Nelson Piquet Jnr. Piquet repeated the mistake he made in practice of touching a wet kerb, and spun off.

More about Lewis Hamilton’s penalty

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90 comments on “Hamilton is moral victor in Spa thriller”

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  1. As always, great post.

    Prior to the appeal being heard, i think we should all revisit the Massa/ Kubica battle at the end of the Japanese grand prix last year. If i recall correctly, Massa went way off the track at the last corner only to rejoin in front of Kubica and taking the position at the flag.


  2. Great report as usual.

    I hope after such controversies, they would stop covering all the run off areas with tarmac! Nearly all drivers made fundemental driving mistakes yet they got away with them.
    Why didnt Ferrari pit Massa for wets at the last lap, what did he have lose anyway? He was way ahead of 3rd placed driver and look how much heidfeld made up on him at the las lap.
    Also why does a drive through penalty equates to 25secs? I remember the old 10 secs stop-go penalty was equal to that.

  3. If lewis gained an advantage cutting the corner, then i hope every driver who miss the corner at every gp at the start get docked 25 seconds,simple biased fia ferrari fans. Lewis would be penalised either way, he gains an advantage or takes kimi out. FIA time to buck your ideas up and keep the racing fair!!!!

  4. i actually have a question about heidfeld. well, bourdais i should say. everything was so focused on the kimi/lewis fight even afer kimi went off so what was going on behind was sort of confusing. i thought speed said there had been some sort of incident or spin for bourdais but everything i’ve been reading sounds like heidfeld and alonso were just plowing through on the wets. did bourdais actually spin or did vettel and kubica just get by him?

  5. Thomas O, Now thats something. Come to think of it what do you make of this?


  6. I’ve been a fan of F1 since 1978. I’ve been a Williams fan for nearly 30 years now, ever since I saw the beautiful FW07 raced by Jones and Regazzoni. But, after the disgusting decision made by the stewards today, I’m finished with this fixed, stinking, ‘sport’ now. No more time to waste on this bent crock of dross. Bernie and Max, you’re welcome to your Ferrari at all costs championship, I hope you’re happy.

  7. “…. Kovalainen would get a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable accident.”

    See they would have gotten Hamilton one way or the other. If he stayed on track and caused an accident with Kimi he would have gotten this penalty, instead he went off, spared both cars and gets penalized for having a competitive advantage.

  8. Oh please, will you all just stop whining.

    Hamilton’s move gave him a serious advantage on the next corner. He was faster them Kimi, and probably would have overtaken him after that, but that’s entirely not the point. He almost did not let Kimi get pass him when slowing down, just to get the vacuum behind the Ferrari. If that was in the middle of the race, he would have had a stop and go.

    I’m not a Ferrari fan (actually I just watch the races these days. No team provides exciting races like before), but the punishment was right.

    Don’t blame any of this on Massa, nor Ferrari. They didn’t even made a formal complaint to FIA. This is just the rules.

    This is an UK blog, and will continue to be. Stop being so biased and get real.

  9. Piquet hasn’t done himself any favours by crashing yet again in the wet. Monaco, Silverstone and now Spa.

  10. bernification
    8th September 2008, 0:49

    Keith, great article again, but a couple of points.

    Kimmi never passed Lewis when he spun, he overshot LaSource and went around the outside of Lewis. He then buried the throttle whilst on the run off area, and straight lined the run off to come back on the track right behind Lewis with greater speed, which he then used to pass him at Kemmel.

    Gained an advantage by running off the track? You decide.

    Also, I don’t think the onboard shows any contact between Lewis and Kimi, but there is no doubt Lewis had to move over as Kimi was definately about to be guilty of creating an avoidable accident by closing the door as he was.

    You stated that Lewis closed the gap on the last stop by being quicker in the stop. I noticed this too- as they were both racing to the end, does this indicate that McLaren pitted with fuel on board- they seem to be very paranoid about Safety Cars!

    Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a Moral WDC. Schumy would never have won it though.lol.

  11. On re-watching the Hamilton/Raikkonen episode a few times – I recorded the race – I believe that Lewis did gain an advantage by allowing Kimi to pass him and immediately tucking into his slipstream, so enabling Lewis to overtake him again. It would seem that Lewis followed the re-pass rule to the letter if not the spirit of the rule, and so a penalty that effectively strips him of the win is far too harsh.

  12. Robert

    Okay, think about this: later the same lap, like Lewis ahead of him, Kimi lost control slightly at Pouhon but made absolutely no attempt to stay on track and used the long stretch of run-off to gain speed, meaning that by the time they reached the curve before Fagnes he was all over Hamilton – precisely where Rosberg span and Hamilton went off track to avoid him. Kimi though ignored the yellow flags and overtook.

    This was resolved shortly after when Kimi span and lost his position.

    But going by the FIA ‘make it up as you go along’ book, I make that a breach equal to the ‘gaining a sporting advantage’ for which Hamilton was punished, and another breach of overtaking under a yellow flag. Is that 20 grid positions at Monza for Raikkonen then?

  13. Thomas O — you are on to something!


    It really is remarkably similar. You were right, Massa went far too wide, missed the corner, and used the paved runoff to build speed and pass Kubica. This is the most black and white ‘argument’ I have seen regarding this all day.

  14. Well, I think the damage done to the spetacle, handing victory to someone who didn’t deserve it at all, while taking it away from someone who drove brilliantly, is evident…

    Meanwhile, I don’t think it is as clear as you say that the decision took by the stewards is essentialy wrong, “stupid”, “ridiculous”… It was rather debatable, polemic, doubtful… not openly idiot…

    Hamilton did NOT effectively surrender the position, he let Raikkonen pass, “but only just”, like a few people have said, and took the slipstream to re-pass Kimi immediatly…

    Politicaly, I think they should have left him unpunished, just like they did with Massa in Valencia.

    Legally, its a typical “hard case”, that, in principle, contemplates more than one possible decision, and the factors that inspire the veredict are well beyond the rules…

    1. Well, I think the damage done to the spetacle, handing victory to someone who didn’t deserve it at all, while taking it away from someone who drove brilliantly, is evident…


    2. Well, I think the damage done to the spetacle, handing victory to someone who didn’t deserve it at all, while taking it away from someone who drove brilliantly, is evident…


  15. @ Kevin:

    “Thomas O — you are on to something!”

    agreed! Massa should have been penalized!!

  16. In case it helps you see the other side, BBC’s F1 podcast (with Maurice Hamilton) said that the ‘entire paddock was united in the view that Hamilton was totally innocent’. You can download the podcast from iTunes. I don’t think Maurice lies or says things without making sure of the facts so this is pretty much a black day in F1 for me.

  17. p.s. I was talking to those who think Lewis’ penalty is justified.

  18. when Lewis spun on the 2nd lap, Kimi went around the outside to AVOID hamilton. Are you people blind?

  19. that was for berni.

  20. Thomas: I thought that that “pass” was suspect from the first second. Now I know that it WAS suspect, or maybe it IS completely legal. It has to be one or the other. Right? What are other notorious Chicanes? Montreal (my home town) has one, Monza has two (see below, France has one. It would be fun to find other instances of cutting.

    IIRC at Magny Cours, they had a rule that the driver could not put 4 wheels on the other side od the line/grass-creete, on the exit of the last chicane.

    Ben: In somewhat of an ironic twist we are heading to a track with 2 notoriously cut chicanes! This could be interesting.

    Robert: you can’t spell Ferrari without F I A … FerrArI.

    Bernification: In wet conditions, running off the traditional line often offers more grip, due to less oil, rain-slick rubber, etc. You are right about Schumacher though!

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