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

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  1. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th September 2008, 22:52

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th September 2008, 0:00

    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?

  4. 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…

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th September 2008, 0:21

    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.

  6. @ Keith

    Well, it’s wet and raining and a chicane without traction control on dry tyres is what we have. I think that was a dangerous combination anyways. Well it was 3 laps or bust. Can i blame Ham for trying? No. But do i think, he should bear the consequences of a move coming unstuck. Yes! Cause and effect. It comes into play here. Ham braked late trying to overtake Kimi. Kimi, who WAS on the inside line for the bus stop chicane. Ham did put himself, where he didn’t need to be. On the outside but to brake sharply and lose some serious track time, as a consequence. Ham could have tried a passing move after La-source or after Eau-rouge. So in a way, yes Ham did choose for himself this predicament.

  7. @Keith- Keith please look at it objectively, forget that it is Lewis and forget that it was a McLaren, and think of this… A certain driver has already been reprimanded and penalised for cutting corners/chicanes to gain track advantage, now the same driver repeats the same move once again, only this time he decides to overtake another in the same controversial manner, only to temporarily relinquish the position, and all this while he is maintaining the momentum he built as a result of cutting that chicane, and then uses that momentum to overtake the driver at the next corner. C’mon Keith just answer this, isn’t all of this uproar simply because Lewis was not at the receiving end of someone else cutting a corner to gain an advantage on him?

    @Sri dude… with petitions being signed and everything else that’s happening, I think we should just keep our peace. I really do not expect people here to understand the reason for the penalty. In my opinion the debate should have been whether the penalty was too harsh? In my opinion, giving him a penalty on starting grid in the next race would have been a kiss on the wrist after slapping it. The only way Lewis will learn that he cannot win races by cutting Chicanes/Corners is when he gets a penalty like the one he got.

  8. hakeem said on 11th September 2008, 7:42

    I swear that is so true!! massa was knocking kubica off the apex of those corners and vice versa. No action was taken!, no penalties. Everyone agreed it was a fantastic battle on the track. So why does it matter now?

  9. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th September 2008, 8:48

    Harkirat – I always strive for objectivity. After the Magny-Cours incident I pointed out that Hamilton was in the wrong for not yielding the place back to Vettel:

    Video: Pressure on Lewis Hamilton after error in French Grand Prix

    But I am firmly of the opinion that the Spa penalty is wrong. Hamilton cut the chicane – because he had no option other than to go across it – and yielded back his advantage to Raikkonen. As Pat Symonds has now said, this verdict will discourage people from racing each other.

    Sri seems to be arguing that Hamilton shouldn’t have tried to pass Raikkonen at the chicane, which seems to prove Symonds’ point.

  10. Well Keith… you are quoting Pat Symonds… I’ll quote
    Sebastien B, Nico, Jarno, and Giancarlo… please read through this article, and maybe you’ll realise that the argument, as I pointed out earlier, should have been about how harsh is that penalty.

    For the record I agree, he cut the chicane because he was forced off the track, but I guess the rules state that the driver may not cut a chicane to gain an advantage, which Lewis did, and had he not blundered in France similarly, maybe his penalty would have been a Cash penalty as well…

  11. @ Keith
    I am arguing, that there consequences, to everything. One could have been that Ham might have taken the lead. The other is, where he cut the chicane, unable to pass… quite deliberate at cutting the chicane and hence was handed out the penalty. I never said that he shouldn’t have had tried. Had he only put some, heck, any effort into it, he’d have taken the corner alright. Albeit, he’d been a lot slower, but yes, he could have made it. He chose to do what was in his best interests, stewards didn’t think that it was fair. For it is not only about Ham’s best interest. It’s a sport. You have some rules and they must be adhered to. Yes, i agree that strange things happen from time to time. However, one may not cry foul every-time one’s favourite driver gets nailed.

    Oh, there’s a precedent to his prove his QUSTIONABLE MOTIVE(now am going underground, don’t fancy Macca/ Ham fans issuing a hit on me), from France, that is. Hence, the penalty under the rule that he got. I think this is a first. I think it is entirely fair. Or we’d have drivers routinely cutting corners and that i do not like.

    Another interesting thing about Ham. He never acknowledges whenever he comes off a luckier person and we have a few instances from a year and half. However, if he has someone stepping on his toe… that’s a different story. We have a press release with the whole British media toeing his line. What in the name of heavens is that about??? NO DISRESPECT MEANT TO YOU KEITH, NONE WHAT SO EVER(you’re much more objective than many people i’ve read)… I’m just saying that he gets the media in, “look at poor darling Ham” mode! I’m just saying he’s smart and media better watch out, before they buy anything coming from him. He has his own reasons/ agenda to do what he does. Drivers are groomed to be that selfish(at least on track, when it comes to work), media should remember that.

  12. Would like to add to the previous by saying, that may be media fully understands. Readership/ Viewership is what it is all about, i guess.

  13. Jack 25 said on 14th September 2008, 15:58

    It is rather amazing as to what everyone has to say, fair is fair, you ferrari fans out there it is pure hypocritical to say he got an advantage. Hamilton never passed Kimi, at the next turn they both run in the back of a backmarker and Hamilton run off track, so where is the advantage.This is just Racism.That is the worlds problem right now, and it is like a cancer.If you are a real sport fan no matter what everyone anyone will chase the fairness.

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