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

The comments below have been split across multiple pages. If you are having trouble viewing all the comments click here to see them all.

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

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  1. William Wilgus
    8th September 2008, 18:10

    Flipper The Hedgehog:
    Ah, but he DID brake—even to the point of locking up a front tire! In one video, you can see the tire smoke coming off his right front. Let’s keep the facts straight, okay?

  2. comment 49, Chris:

    “If Ferrari had any decency they would give the points back.”

    No team, not even McLaren, will look gift points in the mouth. But asking Ferrari to act decently is a stretch, isn’t it? Just examine their history for corroboration. Particularly Alonso at Monza qualifying (2006?), grid penalty and all. If the FIA didn’t investigate on their own you can wager a handsome sum Ferrari would have protested. Alan Donnelly makes sure all of Ferrari’s interests are protected, good bad or otherwise. That’s his job.

  3. @ Harkirat:
    Come on Harkirat, no one here’s bothered about that. I may not after-all be surprised if they go on to express their displeasure at that and wish that there was a penalty.

  4. OK, OK, OK. We all saw what happened. Here is my view: Hamilton followed the letter of the rule, but got a small advantage out of it. He re-joined the full-throttle club about 3 meters behind Kimi at the beginning of a 20 second “straight line”. He gifted himself a superb slipstream.
    Is that deserving as much penalty as he got? Probably not, but one could argue that Kimi would have not crashed had he not being in pursuit. Or he might, who knows.
    In my opinion Hamilton got a small advantage and a huge penalty for it.
    To make a soccer analogy, the home team throws the ball off-bounds because some player of the visiting team is injured. The visiting team then puts the ball in play 5 meters away from the goal line of the home team and goes pressing the poor defender that gets the “gift”? By the rules? Yes. Fair, nor quite. Then again, no referee would award a penalty kick for that, would they?

  5. michael counsell
    8th September 2008, 22:42

    The moral victor? I was far more impressed with Heidfeld, Alonso, Vettel, Bourdais and Sutil. I don’t think the way he overtook Raikkonen was moral, but I don’t think he should have been penalised either.

  6. Lewis Hamilton is the greatest grand prix driver of all times (Senna a close second) – I just cannot believe that the brillient performance from Hamilton was questioned at all. The whole thing is shocking. Last year was bad enough as Hamilton was robbed of winning the 2007and now this!!!!!

  7. marie, please do not put Hamilton above Senna. I would argue that Senna has shown much more impressive driving than Lewis.

    Wilgus: of course Lewis braked. He was coming into a corner. What others are saying is that he didn’t brake to let Kimi past, and instead he cut the chicane. If he had the balls to make the move he should have had the balls to stick with it.

    With all these nice runoff areas, F1 will continue to have problems such as this. Drivers know that in the worst case they can escape and cut, with no reprecutions. If the pass doesn’t work they simply end up right behind the competing driver.

    Just make all these places sand boxes and this wouldn’t happen. Then again a sand box would bring out the safety car which would allow some lucky drivers to teleport to podiums.

  8. @Sri…

    I agree with you that it really does seem that people here are not even considering the repercussions of no penalty… and if they really believe that there should be no penalty imposed for straight-lining a chicane… then I guess soon trailing drivers will start straight-lining chicanes to gain valuable time and maintain their momentum… it seems to totally escape the readers of this post that chicanes are there for a purpose, and one person straight-lining it and not getting penalized will set a bad precedent…

  9. @ marie
    I understand/ appreciate your right to have an affiliation towards anyone/ anything. However, history of F1 has seen drivers much better than Hamilton(from Britain itself for that matter). Also, he was not robbed of the ’07 title. He had a good 18 points lead going to the last 3 races. He just shot himself in the foot/ face… whatever you think suffices to say that he did not do himself any favours.

    @ Harkirat
    However, there are also some sane voices nonetheless and i must thank them. Thank you every single one of you, who think that this penalty was OK. I’d bet that most of the people who you saw complaining at Hams’ penalty, they would also cry foul if it were a red car jumping the kerb and ask(more like DEMAND) for one. This is what i wanted to say in the previous post, but i deleted a sentence so as not to offend no one(sometimes i guess it’s unavoidable).

    You know what is funnier? M Schumacher tried to contest his DQ from a race in season of ’94 and got DQ’d for 2 more races(yeah right, FIA favours Schumacher!!!). Citing the example, if the team McLaren contest the penalty, they could be further penalized by the FIA. I say go team McLaren. LOLLLLL

    The best possible thing would be to advise lil innocent Lewis(who’s dunnit twice, if you include this plus France) to stop making a habit of straight-lining the chicanes.

  10. I rewatched the race last night (all hail the DVR) and here is something I haven’t seen mentioned:

    Lewis clearly gave up the position. Kimi’s car passed in front of his without contact so he was clearly behind him. The only arguable point must then be was Lewis closer to Kimi because he went off track. Now, in my opinion, the rules don’t say anything about this but let’s assume it’s wrong.

    Just after the pass, Kimi went off track on the next left hander. Instead of coming back on, he accelerated down the run off area for a good 4-5 seconds before slotting in right behind Lewis. It’s very clear that Kimi made up time and ended up closer to Lewis by traveling off track. Just after that, they ran into traffic which allowed Kimi to re-pass Lewis so you could just as well argue that Kimi was only able to do that because he went of track (not forced off – just went off) and made up that time to put him closer to Lewis.

  11. I’m totally disgusted with FIA and their disgusting bias concerning any incident involving Mclaren. This race was the most exciting and thrilling I’ve ever watched. Hamilton the boy racer is such a joy to watch and truly deserved to win. He is the only driver out there with the intelligence to master wet conditions. Whatever the outcome with Mclaren’s appeal, this stewards decision has left a very bitter taste and left FI very tainted.

  12. Now all the people who think the penalty was wrong, also consider this… Trulli is quoted by autosport.com, to be stating that “Ham gained an advantage”


    He definitely knows more than us couch experts… He is known to be reasonably fair and an uncontroversial person. Knows better than Lauda, cos Lauda’s not racing, he used to(that was more than 2 decades ago).

  13. I have never watched F1, so I had NO bias before reading this story. I don’t know any of the drivers or the teams.

    From watching the video you can make a few definite statements;

    1. Hamilton was gaining quickly on Raikkonen.
    2. Hamilton was ahead going into the second turn.
    3. Hamilton let Raikkonen back into the lead before passing him again.

    I don’t think Hamilton had much of a choice at that turn. Even if he did brake, and brake HARD, Raikkonen was cutting that turn so hard that he would have pushed him off the road and possibly wrecked both cars. I don’t see any other way of looking at it. Raikkonen took that turn like my 11 year old does at the go-kart track, he didn’t care who was beside him!

    Another way to look at it, if there had been a barrier there so Hamilton could not have cut the corner there is ZERO chance that Raikkonen wouldn’t have put him into the wall. (And both would have probably been a tangled mess.)

  14. @Sri

    I don’t think that anyone disagrees that Hamilton could have gained an advantage by cutting the corner, that’s why his team told him to let Raikkonen pass him. It’s not Hamilton’s fault that that he could then use that to his advantage.

  15. @ schazoom!

    Well, please take time to read the posts here(on this forum) and you’ll know why i said what i did. Some are in-fact blaming Kimi for the incident, as ridiculous as that is.

    What must have went against Ham, was the fact that there was little attempt from his end, to turn into the corner. He simply straight-lined it to his convenience. Also, on board video suggests that Lewis’s theory of being in lead is treading on very very thin ground(if you’d call it that). Kimi held the apex, as being on the inside line it was his prerogative. Ham, like other drivers on the outside line was expected to go around or wait for his turn. Unless there is an accident or aquaplaning or some other silly thing, in which such a thing as cutting a corner is unavoidable. His lackluster attempt at taking the chicane properly may have been, what you’d call the last nail in the coffin. Stewards have cited the rule which someone has quoted in some other post on this blog, to the effect that only black and narrow should be used for racing. I think, this is why the penalty was handed out to him.

    Also, i wouldn’t call the boy innocent(anything but that), as it ain’t the first time that he was up-to it. France being the case in point before this. Both times, he has gone ahead and issued statements to the effect that, “i was ahead, but we would have clashed…” If you ask me, boy’s got to learn some humility and learn how to keep his cool. Infact, i wouldn’t be surprised if Court penalizes Lewis further, for repeat offense. There’s a precedent from ’94 when a penalty was petitioned by a certain Schumacher, for his stop-go on the last lap at Silverstone. In this case, Ham’s guilty as sin, as soon as they show the video, the telemetry. Why? Cos the chappie didn’t do a basic thing as brake and steer and chose deliberately to cut the chicane, for the second time in this season. It’s like setting standards. Lewis was making being towed back by cranes, and other such stuff like this look like routine. About time that it all stopped.

  16. Sri, I don’t think Hamilton had an alternative but to cut the chicane. Looking at the onboard, Raikkonen squeezes him so sharply he has to go off-track to avoid a collision. Braking alone simply wouldn’t do it, especially on the damp track.

    I think it’s a mistake to see this as the same as the France incident – on that occasion he clearly had gone in too quickly and wasn’t going to make the corner. This is different.

  17. Keith, since you have watched the incident over and over, i’ll leave the ball in your court with a couple of questions.

    Q) Did Lewis brake late, infact later than Kimi going into that turn?
    A) Lewis braked late, knowing fully well that Kimi was on the inside lane and that it was raining/ track was wet.

    Q) Braking late means sometimes you run out of tarmac, isn’t it?
    A) Yes, if you brake too late, it could be disaster.

    Q) Was Kimi on the apex and doesn’t being on the inside line gives him the right, to take the corner pretty much as he sees fit(of-course, we’ve not seen Kimi knocking other cars out like Senna did, have we ever)?
    A) Kimi WAS on the inside line, apex was his and Lewis could have followed through. Albeit in that situation where he braked hard and followed Kimi through, would have cost him precious track time. I think that’s why he chose to cut the corner, not the fear of running into Kimi(which if you ask me, is rather an inapt argument on Ham’s part).

    Q) Was Ham lapping Kimi’s car, as he said he felt squeezed out? What else can you expect from a racing driver on the inside line, especially when racing for position(in this case, race lead and a potential win)? So in that sense, whether this is an AMATEUR(calling Ham a rookie would be doing him a favour, as he’s been racing for more than 10 years) mistake on Ham’s part?
    A) As hard it seems to swallow, Ham has momentary lapses of reason, just like every one of us. That’s all there is to it really…

    No… this is not very different in the sense that it is/was an oversight on part of Hamilton, on both occasions. Both times he was racing for position and one thing even the last of the 22 cars would hate is ceding position. We all know that, don’t we? Albeit, Ham’s finding out, that people will not move out of his way, even though he drives a McLaren Mercedes and touted as the next big thing in F1. In-fact, that makes him someone that they’ll measure up-to, to prove that they are worthy of a better drive(not so difficult to deduce). He will do himself good if he learns this bit fast. Simply put, this is just plain embarrassing.

  18. Sri – I can’t quite follow your argument but you seem to be saying that if Hamilton has just braked he wouldn’t have hit Raikkonen. I don’t think you can say that for sure and, given what happened to Kovalainen early in the place, surely you can understand why Hamilton would not have wanted to risk it?

  19. I believe that he did not want to lose track time and he did what he thought what suited him best. I’m just trying to say in the above post that Ham is human, makes mistakes. Which here i see, people are steadfastly not willing to acknowledge.

    Essentially, this is a similar sort of mistake, that the lad had made a little more than a month ago. Braked late in both instances, put himself in a situation where he could go nowhere. Took the easy route to save himself some track-time, in relation to car ahead. Nothing more, but nothing less…

  20. Sri – “put himself in a situation where he could go nowhere” – this is the bit I disagree with. It’s not as if it was inevitable that Raikkonen was going to swerve across on him. Raikkonen was putting himself at risk of being taken out by doing that.

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