After the stewards took Lewis Hamilton’s win in the Belgian Grand Prix and handed it to Felipe Massa comments flew into F1 Fanatic faster than I had time to read them.
Inevitably many have reacted to the decision based on whether they’re fans of Hamilton or Ferrari, which is understandable. But reading the hundreds of comments here and elsewhere I get the impression most ‘neutral’ fans and even some avowed Ferrari supporters find the stewards’ latest controversial decision too much to take.
This is about more than just Ferrari versus McLaren – this is about the poor state of racing in F1, and the sport’s reputation being brought into disrepute by its own governing body.
What was Hamilton supposed to do?
Much of the discussion yesterday hinged on what Hamilton should have done to avoid a penalty.
Some criticised him for cutting the chicane. But what was his other option? Given how close he and Raikkonen were, and how sharply Raikkonen turned in on him, I don’t think he would have been able to avoid hitting Raikkonen just by braking. In which case, as Dan M pointed out:
If he stayed on track and caused an accident with Raikkonen he would have gotten [Kovalainen's] penalty, instead he went off, spared both cars and gets penalised for having a competitive advantage.
Hamilton himself said: “Kimi ran me wide. To avoid an incident, I had to go up that part of the track.”
If Hamilton had no choice but to cut the corner, what did he need to do to avoid a penalty? He let Raikkonen go entirely past him. Presumably the stewards wanted him to let Raikkonen go further ahead. But how far away did he need to let Raikkonen to be sure he wouldn’t get a penalty? There’s no way of telling by looking at the rules.
It almost goes without saying that the stewards’ decision makes no sense in the context of recent decisions. As Thomas O pointed out Felipe Massa went off the track and gained an advantage at least once while racing Robert Kubica in last year’s Japanese Grand Prix:
Was Massa punished? No.
Adding to the inconsistency, race director Charlie Whiting told McLaren he thought what Hamilton did was legitimate.
A great race ruined
After the race many people on the live blog remarked on how exciting it had been, especially after the dreariness of the European Grand Prix.
If there’s one thing all F1 fans like it’s a proper, wheel-to-wheel battle for the lead. The stewards interfering with that not only spoiled the race, it gives the impression they don’t want drivers overtaking in Formula 1. As The Limit said:
Today we witnessed one of the most thrilling battles in years, by two of the most gifted open wheel drivers. They gave no quarter in their quest for glory, and none was given, even to team mates. All the frustrations, the pressure, was released, the gloves had finally come off. How I would have loved, to have talked to you all about the quality of Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton today, about the ferocity of their battle, the skill that was involved.
Sadly, all we can talk about is what followed, not on the track where it belongs, but in a boardroom.
Punishment out of proportion
Assuming Hamilton did gain a slight advantage by not letting Raikkonen past by enough, the punishment seems grossly disproportionate to the crime.
The stewards could easily have instructed him to let Raikkonen past again – indeed, they’ve done it in the past in F1 and it’s common practice in other motor sports.
Instead, they relegated Hamilton behind two drivers who weren’t even involved in the battle for the lead. Where’s the justice in that?
The innuendo about the FIA favouring Ferrari has hung around F1 for years. The barge board and Michelin tyre scandals in 1999 and 2003, Fernando Alonso’s dubious penalty at Monza in 2006, and McLaren’s staggering punishment in spy-gate last year are just a few examples of occasions when the FIA has been accused of protecting F1’s most famous team.
Hamilton’s punishment is just one more reason why so many F1 fans think the FIA is biased in favour of Ferrari. And if the game is rigged, no-one will want to watch.
Another court room battle
The 2007 season was ruined by a seemingly unending string of controversies that ended up before the FIA Court of Appeal. And here we go again.
Many F1 fans are sick of the politics. They want to see races decided by the racers.
F1 brought into disrepute
We may grumble and groan about its idiosyncrasies, but F1 fans at heart are passionate about motor racing and see Formula 1 as one of the top forms of motor sport.
Decisions like this which seem unjust, out of all proportion, and designed to favour one team over the others, are hugely damaging to F1’s public image.
No-one wants to admit to liking a sport if the rest of the public see it as being corrupt. The FIA stewards brought Formula 1 into disrepute yesterday.
See the original discussion in full which already has over 300 comments: Lewis Hamilton stripped of Belgian GP win – another asinine FIA penalty
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