Hamilton is moral victor in Spa thriller

2008 Belgian Grand Prix review

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

  1. diseased rat said on 8th September 2008, 9:22

    Not sure if this was already posted in the previous thread but here is David Crofts interpretation of events (audio).

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/7603144.stm

  2. phoros said on 8th September 2008, 9:28

    “Moral victor”? Purify your eyes, People… Even fanatism has its limits.

  3. Sorry Keith, i did post it on the previous blog, but this seems relevant here as well.

    Lewis, with all due respect to a talented racing driver as him(am not a fan of his though), should have done what logically should have been done. Use the god-darned brakes(even in Canada he should have had). All those people who justified him cutting the corner, we should remember that vehicles have BRAKES to slow them down, which were also available to Lewis. He could have lifted off, or used the brakes, isn’t too hard, or is it(keeping Lewis’s actions in mind, i could be wrong)? He got a penalty in France and one would think, “boy musta’ learned his lesson!” Guess we got it all wrong, when he goes on to say “If there’s a penalty, then there’s something wrong because I was ahead going into that corner, so I didn’t gain an advantage from it.” Lessons in humility are in order for him, one would imagine.

    About giving back the advantage(which he shouldn’t have have had in the first place), this is not the first time that this driver has resorted to such a move(France being the case in point). I know we all have our loyalties lying with something/ someone, and we root for it/ them. Does it have to be so blind though? FIA/ and stewards did very well to penalize him as a deterrent, to any such future incidents by this particular driver(or anyone else for that matter).

    Some people have questioned Kimi over the move, squeezing Ham out. Well, he had the inside line, he did what he/ anyone else in his position, would have done, what’s all the hoopla about?

    Now about Valencia and Massa. Let us get one thing straight, it is one and the only such incident in F1 which got penalized(in more than a decade or so), even if it was monetary. Infact, i was quite surprised to see it being raised by the stewards, for that matter. So, with all due respect, can you all please quit whinging about it?

  4. That was one of the worst decisions I have seen in F1, since Schumacher rammed Hill preventing him becoming two time world champion.

    As soon as he cut the corner, I thought “slow and let him pass Lewis”. And he did, immediately.

    I had a feeling the penalty would happen all afternoon, but why did it take 3 hours after the race before the announcement? The race director said there was nothing wrong when interviewed after the race.

    If Ferrari had any decency they would give the points back.
    Think it damages them too. Formula 1 fans already think there is huge bias.
    You can’t really disagree with them now.

    The actual race had a brilliant ending though!

  5. djwazqa said on 8th September 2008, 10:20

    This is how i see it. Massa started 2nd , ended up 3rd, passed no-one and won the race…….well done the FIA

  6. @Chris
    The decision to impose penalty lies with the race stewards.

  7. the only reason they penalized lewis is to make the last five races more excitable, there for bring in more veiwers to the sport. which i find wrong lewis won the race simple, last year mclaren got $100 fine and once again they are being penalized, fia and ferrari always seem to be the talking point lol

  8. Toncho said on 8th September 2008, 10:59

    Yesterday’s race made me mad and I promised myself that I wouldn’t watch any other GP this season… nothing new right?? The thing is, I said that just after HAM stole the position from RAI and didn’t gave it back PROPERLY in a clear unfair play movement.
    Keith you said: “Raikkonen, with Hamilton fully alongside him, pushed the McLaren clean off the track, putting Hamilton in the lead.” I think this is a twisted way of seeing things. He did not put anyone off the track; he was just making a fair defensive move. If anyone was responsible for HAM cutting the chicane was plain and clearly just him. He was just not close enough to pass there, he tried to brake later to lower the gap but was not enough and had to go wide to avoid the collision. I know that MAS has “let him pass” in similar situations but you should not expect the same every time. Kimi did not brake-tested him or anything, just protected his racing line, so if HAM went wide it was only his fault and should gave the position back.
    The thing is that in the next corner, he did not give back the position properly. HAM did not behave like a sportsman but rather like someone who cheats and then takes advantage of the situation. He left kimi pass and immediately afterwards took advantage of RAI’s slipstream, took the interior and regain the position. As you can see in the video RAI had to take the exterior (bad) side of the line to avoid him.
    Personally, I believe is a well deserved penalty. I also believe, HAM must still learn to keep his head cool. At that point of the race RAI was struggling to keep the pace so HAM would have been able to pass him and eventually win the race.
    I do not consider myself a fan of RAI but I am really sad he ended in the wall, he made a brilliant start and 41 flawless laps. I reckon he lost his cool after the incident with HAM, is just a pity that the season is finish for him and maybe his career.

  9. Flipper The Hedgehog said on 8th September 2008, 11:32

    To Sri – you can’t criticise him for not using his brakes. It was wet. People appear to have overlooked this crucial point. This was why he didn’t brake, why he cut the chicane and why Raikkonen wasn’t able to keep it on the track. As to any advantage he may or may not have got the net effect would still have been that the McLaren was faster in the wet and he would have got passed. The advantage has to be seen in the context of the final few laps as a whole not in isolation as many that support the stewards’ decision seem to be doing.

  10. I’m far from being Hamilton’s fan, but I agree that stewards’ decision was unfair. Even if Hamilton took and advantage, 25 s penalty is disproportionate and kills F1′s spirit of competition (!!!). 5-places penalty on the grid for next race would be much better idea. I agree with the preceding speakers wondering why Massa didn’t get such penalty last year in Japan. By the way, Spa proved itself to be the best, most interesting and entertaining track in F1 calendar. It’s fast, diverse and unpredictable. Unfortunately, we can’t say that about brand new Valecia or Bah(no)rain circuits.

  11. It is always disappointing when the result of the race is decided off the track rather than on it… and being a fan of Felipe… it does not make me proud to see that he won this race off the track…

    Coming to the penalty… I think Formula 1 is becoming more like WWE and the stewards more like Vince McMahon… in essence… they pick the most popular person on the grid and start targeting him for all the weird punishments… I think what they realize is that they have nothing to lose by being unpopular… as long as Lewis becomes the wronged hero… because that would ultimately mean more publicity and hence more money for F1… it is stupid but possible…

  12. @ Flipper The Hedgehog:
    Hi there Flipper… You make an interesting point that it was wet out there. One would think, that it is more important in treacherous conditions as in Spa to be extra cautious and brake as appropriate. Yet, we find him braking ever so late and cutting the chicane, almost running into the back on the car in lead(in that corner) and with such an excuse of an avoiding maneuver.

    Also, all the incidents on penalties are seen in isolation. There are no ifs and buts… as we would want it to be.

    Not aimed at you personally, but i bet many of the people screaming foul, would have screamed louder if it was Lewis who got nerfed. Just an observation.

  13. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 8th September 2008, 16:09

    Sri – your point about being cautious makes some sense but I think you’re forgetting Hamilton would not have had to cut the corner if Raikkonen hadn’t forced him off. Hamilton did not cut the chicane because he’d outbraked himself – he hadn’t outbraked himself, he was cleanly alongside Raikkonen.

  14. @ Keith
    Yes, but with all due respect, Kimi had the apex and held it. Ham could/ should have braked or slowed down. Which is also what happened in France. Ham just didn’t brake, chose not to and instead cut through the chicane, then and now. Which is the point i’ll bet, cited by the stewards for the penalty. We may keep arguing this, but Ham’s got to learn that something’s got to give. That ain’t going to be the stewards. This shall happen to one and all and Ham isn’t going to be an exception anytime soon.

  15. I have a question… had Lewis not been penalized, would it not have set a precedent where any driver could straight-line a chicane, over take another car, break the other guy’s rhythm or maybe slow him down enough and then relinquish the position gained and then over take again at the next corner?

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