Seven reasons why so many F1 fans are furious about Hamilton’s penalty

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.

Inconsistency

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?

Ferrari

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

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

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268 comments on Seven reasons why so many F1 fans are furious about Hamilton’s penalty

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  1. Steve G said on 8th September 2008, 11:19

    All completely fair points and I don’t think anyone could argue with them.

    I do think a little common sense from Hamilton could have been beneficiary to him; if he was so much faster than Kimi, why not wait a couple of corners and have another go. Of course, this way is more instinct and great racing, but maybe if he just let Kimi stay in the lead for La Source, he could have waited until past Eau Rouge and then down the next straight… then he definitely would have avoided a penalty that he shouldn’t have got in the first place.

  2. Architrion said on 8th September 2008, 11:19

    “What was Hamilton supposed to do?”

    Use his brain instead of his balls. Let Raikonnen pass clearly Le Source and attack him at the end of the Radillion, before Les Combes…. He was clearly faster and there was two laps to finish the race… plenty of time and opportunities.

  3. TeamOrders said on 8th September 2008, 11:21

    I’m a Mark Webber/Red Bull fan.

    Lewis deserved the penalty. It’s just not that hard to understand.

    He cut the corner when he didn’t have to. By doing so he was far closer to Kimi than he would have been if he’d braked, turned, and negotiated the chicane. In this position he should not have overtaken Kimi but he did, thereby using the advantage he’d gained in cutting the corner to overtake Kimi,

    What should he have done? Easy, let Kimi by, slot in beinh him through la Source, and the try for an overtake after that.

    If you want precedent then look at the Alonso Suzuka 2005 incident with Klein. Same incident, same penalty.

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 8th September 2008, 11:24

    Architron – where in the rules does it say he wasn’t allowed to pass Raikkonen at the next corner? Based on the precedent set by Massa at Fuji, Hamilton was entirely correct to assume he could pass Raikkonen at La Source.

  5. Architrion said on 8th September 2008, 11:31

    Keith – Was it necessary? Was that his final attack? Even Mr Ed Gorman (whose balanced opinion is well known!!!!) said that he felt Lewis was launching his attack too soon.

    More about brains. He was the clear winner being second. He was taking two more points from Massa, his first rival at the moment. He didn’t need to overtake Raikkonen. Do you remember that song? It seems so similar to Shanghai and Brazil…..

  6. graham228221 said on 8th September 2008, 11:36

    i’ve tended to avoid conspiracy theories, and i’m no mclaren fan, but if the FIA want to get rid of their reputation for favouring ferrari they really went the wrong way about it.

    there’s blatantly no reason whatsoever for any investigation. and no reason to wreck the results of one of the most memorable F1 finishes in years.

    hamilton clearly gave the place back, and for me the argument that he got an advantage somehow by doing just doesn’t hold water. if he had backed off through the chicane, passing back behind kimi, then hamilton would have been right behind going into the straight and in exactly the same position as he actually was after conceding the place.

    how far should hamilton have fallen back? enough that he would have no chance at an overtake going into la source? he’d been right on kimi’s tail and looked cleary faster in the conditions, so that makes no sense.

    in the difficult conditions, in the heat of a battle for the front, hamilton did amazingly well to keep his cool and heed the message from his team to drop back. i’m sure his team didn’t have time to work out exactly how far the FIA needed him to drop back (somekind of abitrary, unspecified distance apparently) and it would have downright dangerous for hamilton to musing on that while at speed, in the wet, on dry tyres, right next to another car.

    maybe ferrari, in the spirit of the sport, might back up mclaren in this matter. there’s no way that, if the tables were turned, domenicalli would agree with the decision.

    and it definitely seems counter-productive by the FIA to reach that decision. it seems to me (and lewis and mclaren would probably feel the same) that they’ve basically said hamilton would have been better off just dropping back and not challenging kimi at all.

    in a time when F1 is in vital need of aggressive, confident risk-taking that was displayed on sunday, for the FIA to punish that is sending out a very wrong message.

    great job lewis, most entertaining 4 laps of the season!

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 8th September 2008, 11:37

    Architron – whether he should or he shouldn’t have been trying to pass Raikkonen is a different argument entirely.

    What I’m saying is that, based on the rules and on precedent, Hamilton thought he’d done exactly what the stewards expected of him. It’s a desperate state of affairs if a driver in second place doesn’t want to pass the driver in first place because the rules make it too risky, which brings me back to one of the points made above.

  8. Ronald said on 8th September 2008, 11:50

    Excellent race,

    went to bed last night without having checked the sites and the disgrace that followed.
    when i read the headlines htis morning i was appaled.

    i didnt see hamilton doing anything from a unsporting point of view (on purpose), the two had a fair challeng and reacted according to the circumstances.

    great race, but then Massa winning in that way…. no no no and again nooooooooooooooo.

    i am a true Massa fan but i didnt like the way it was done (looking forward to hearing his view).

    now rules are rules, but i dont think 25 seconds is a propper repremend for the situation. maybe 25,000 euros in light of the last race’s penalty?

    FIA shame on you,

  9. As Graham points out above – what is the correct distance to drop back? Arguably Hamilton could have waited until after La Source to over take Raikkonen.

    But ultimately, Hamilton’s move didn’t matter in the end anyway: Raikkonen got the place back later the next lap, and then span off. Hamilton’s move did not affect the rest of the race at all. How, then, did he claim an advantage?

    Also, to reinforce the consistency point made above, check out this unpunished example:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5UnPeyzcHM

  10. Architrion said on 8th September 2008, 11:52

    My point of view… I think that penalty doesn’t suit very well. It can be, although my understanding says that he had left Kimi pass and he was smarter than Kimi at Le Source. I don’t like to see this penalty, while Schumi made so many chicane-crossing at Hungary 2006, while battling with De La Rosa for free. Do you remember?

    You’re right, it’s a matter of another discussion if he should have calm down or drive so agressively. I loved that final races. They are priceless, something to remember. But, with distance you’ll find that he should have secured the points, the same Fred should have done last year at Fuji, or Lewsi at Brazil and China. He is not going to be remembered by how he won-lost this race, but how many championships he will win.

    PD. I’m with you that this rule needs to be clarified. I’ve read that you can’t overtake at the next two corners if you gain and unfair advantage, but I’ve read articles that stewards called and found nothing about it….

  11. nick clews said on 8th September 2008, 11:55

    great race but the penalty was a shambles. Race stewards are **** *********!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. I’m a “neutral” boy myself so here’s my contribution…

    I don’t know how the FIA are going to argue their point but what i was thinking was that when Lewis came out of the chicane, he might have already been applying the throttle before Kimi took the lead back on the straight. Maybe the FIA are thinking that Lewis should have kept of the throttle until Kimi took his place back. I can’t prove any of this obviously but it’s the only logic i can think of.

    As for people thinking Kimi pushed Lewis out of the chicane, they may be onto something: I’ll have to compare Kimi’s racing line through the chicane with previous laps but he was hugging the left hander suspiciously close there.

  13. Actually, that throttle explanation is really thin when I think about it. Don’t kill me please!

  14. If Lewis would have gone unpenalized than this would have probably become the most popular way to overtake.

    Go into a chicane, break late, show to world you had no other option and then just lift off the throttle enough for the person in front of you to get slightly ahead and then overtake him at the end of the straight.

    I am not saying that Lewis did it intentionally. But the penalty was a must to ensure that it did not happen again.

  15. I lay claim to the name “chicane-gate”

    i’m sticking to my guns, both should be penalised, they were hardly on track must of the time which gave both an advantage.

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