Hamilton penalty: FIA closes the stable door after the horse has bolted (Video)

Race control admitted Alonso shouldn\'t have been penalised at Suzuka in 2005

Race control admitted Alonso shouldn't have been penalised at Suzuka in 2005

Five days after the Hamilton penalty controversy the FIA has announced how drivers should behave if they cut a corner and gain an advantage while racing a driver for position. According to Autosport:

Drivers [have been] informed that in the event of a driver cutting a chicane and gaining a position, he not only had to give that place back but should also wait for another corner before he could attempt to retake it.

This is a useful clarification ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, as the first two corners at Monza are chicanes. But it goes against the precedent the FIA set in the Alonso-Klien battle at Suzuka three years ago, which I think proves Hamilton is in the right. Here’s a video that shows why.

The Alonso-Klien incident, Suzuka 2005

The best precedent for the incident between Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen in the closing stages of the Belgian Grand Prix is, in my opinion, Fernando Alonso and Christian Klien’s battle at Suzuka in 2005. Here’s a video that shows everything that happened:

To summarise:

1. Alonso lines up Klien to pass him on the outside of the chicane
2. Alonso fails to make the corner and cuts it, gaining an advantage by passing Klien
3. Alonso allows Klien to re-pass him
4. Alonso passes Klien again at the very next corner

We could quite easily substitute ‘Alonso’ for ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Klien’ for ‘Raikkonen’ in the above and it would suffice for an explanation of what happened at Belgium. But what happened next is what helps us understand why McLaren managed the Hamilton incident as they did, and gives me cause to think he is in the right:

5. Alonso catches Michael Schumacher but is informed by race control he must let Klien pass again
6. Alonso lets Klien pass him again
7. Race control cancel the instruction to Alonso to let Klien pass – but it is too late, because he already has.

Point seven is crucial. Race control decided Alonso did not need to let Klien pass after all. Why they did this I cannot say but presumably they decided Alonso’s original re-pass on Klien – which was so much like Hamilton’s pass on Raikkonen – was fair.

And presumably the stewards were happy as well, as Alonso did not get a penalty after the race.

Why McLaren cleared the move with race control

I think the fact of the race stewards changing their mind about the Alonso penalty is sometimes overlooked because Suzuka ’05 was, by any standards, an absolutely stunning Grand Prix, better remembered for Alonso’s round-the-outside pass on Schumacher at 130R or Raikkonen passing Giancarlo Fisichella on the final lap to win.

This was exactly the kind of thrilling racing Spa served up last weekend – only this time the stewards got involved, contradicting the precedent they set three years ago.

At Spa, McLaren twice asked race control (Charlie Whiting) whether Hamilton had complied by the rules. Whiting twice replied that Hamilton had. Looking back at the Autosport report from after the Suzuka race it’s clear why McLaren were so keen to ensure the move was legitimate:

A message had appeared on Renault’s pitlane screen from race director Charlie Whiting to the effect that Alonso must surrender his place to Klien – again. Alonso was three seconds down the road down the road from the Red Bull by this time, so far from trying to pass Schuey, he instead had to wait for Christian and let him by. The team has protested that Alonso had already surrendered the place – and back came the message cancelling the previous instruction, saying it was okay for him to stay ahead. By which time he’d allowed Klien past…So Alonso had to repass again, going into lap 13. Autosport October 13, 2005

The words speak for themselves. The stewards were so inconsistent with their penalty for a similar incident at Suzuka three years ago that McLaren wanted to make utterly certain they would not get caught out. They did everything they could and were prepared to cede the lead back to Raikkonen, but race control never instructed them to.

Read more about the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix

Appeal date set

Max Mosley today gave a typically condescending retort to the suggestion that decisions such as those against Hamilton give the impression the FIA is biased in Ferrari’s favour:

I think it’s a reflection, and I’m sorry to say this, of the stupidity of the people who say it because they haven’t really thought the thing through and put themselves in the position of the people who have to take these very difficult decisions.

I’m not saying the FIA is biased in favour of Ferrari. But, Mr Mosley, I’ve thought this case through, I’ve put myself in the position of the stewards and I’ve looked at the regulations and their past decisions.

Unless, since Suzuka ’05, the FIA has put out some other clarification of how drivers should handle this sort of incident, I cannot see how Hamilton is guilty in light of the facts. (Do you know of any such changes? If so please post details below).

The World Motor Sports Council will render a decision on Monday 22nd of September.

Loads of other F1 bloggers have written about the penalty. These observations and reactions illustrate the mixed views on the penalty. Here are a few choice articles:

The comments below have been split across multiple pages. If you’ve having trouble viewing the pages click here to view all comments.

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85 comments on Hamilton penalty: FIA closes the stable door after the horse has bolted (Video)

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  1. Hamilton is not in the right, cheating is cheating, there is no ‘right’ side to it. He should have waited and he never truly relinquished the advantage as the ferrari is faster on the straight anyway.

  2. I think the reaction of the other drivers has been interesting. Trulli, especially Bourdais and rather strangely one ‘unnamed’ driver on the BBC.

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th September 2008, 23:20

    Amy, by your logic, in the video I’ve posted, Alonso “never truly relinquished the advantage” on the straight either – and race control (eventually) decided he shouldn’t have been punished. So why should Hamilton?

  4. Robert McKay said on 12th September 2008, 23:30

    Of course, the stewards could have said this in their judgement. Or the FIA could have said this after the judgement was released, a week ago. Rather than let the world talk about it for days on the internet and only bother to clarify it when the drivers themselves ask what is required. It only makes it look like it took their combined brain power a week to find a justification for giving Hamilton a penalty.

    “Cheating” is the kind of inflammatory word that helps noone and does not allow for sensible discussion. Cheating would have been not bothering to try to pass Raikkonen but simply driving across the chicane and staying ahead and not even bothering to cede the place back without being told to. Hamilton tried to do the right thing – he just didn’t do it correctly, in the eyes of the stewards. To call it cheating is over-egging it.

  5. Well Kieth, rules do change and I guess it also depends on the circumstances, what they have now said about the corner thing cements the fact hamilton did not fully relinquish the advantage. If it was Monaco or somewhere similar would would have happened to hamilton had he tried the same thing, BANG!!! You cannot just cut corners because it is more convinient.

  6. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th September 2008, 23:37

    Amy – are you saying that Hamilton should be punished by a rule the FIA changed five days afterwards? Or do you know of an earlier occasion when they announced they had changed the rule?

  7. Here’s how I see it. If practically all the other drivers on the grid think Hamilton was in the wrong, then he was more than likely in the wrong. I would have thought they would know.

  8. Kieth, yes, I think he should have been punished anyway, cut the corner, gained an advantage, did not properly relinquish it. What happened with Alonso is not important for Hamilton’s decision simply because it was a different situation, different stuards, etc. You cannot compare 2 incidents where the same rule was broken from different years and different situations because it always amounts in a different result.

  9. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th September 2008, 23:51

    Amy – I don’t see how the two situation are so different – as I wrote above they’re extremely similar. What do you think makes them so different?

    As for comparing different years, it’s not as if we’re comparing today with 1950, this was less than three years ago and the rules on racing have hardly changed at all since then.

  10. Robert McKay said on 12th September 2008, 23:51

    “Kieth, yes, I think he should have been punished anyway, cut the corner, gained an advantage, did not properly relinquish it. What happened with Alonso is not important for Hamilton’s decision simply because it was a different situation, different stuards, etc. You cannot compare 2 incidents where the same rule was broken from different years and different situations because it always amounts in a different result.”

    This is the problem F1 has – no consistency. Different stewards + different drivers + different year = different penalties – then you decide the rules after. It’s not helpful.

  11. my point exactly robert, no consistency which is why the 2 incidents cannot be compared due to the lack of inconsistency. I THINK the penalty should stand, my opinion only, I am not claiming it to be the correct one, I am simply stating that were it up to me (which it obviously is not) I would make the penalty stand.

  12. William Wilgus said on 13th September 2008, 0:04

    Extremely similar is not the same thing as exactly the same—which the two incidents are clearly not.

  13. the only thing i can really add, that’s not already covered here, was something discussed in fp2 on 5live earlier today between maurice hamilton and ian phillips.

    apparently during a driver’s meeting charlie raised this issue at some point in the past, and told drivers to relinquish a place and wait for the next corner before attempting another.

    the two didn’t mention any specifics, but i recorded the conversation so i’ll try and dig out the relevant part (from a 90min chat, may take a while), and post a link.

    if that’s is true, and it happened post suzuka, mclaren don’t stand much of a chance, and the fia clarification is just fine.

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th September 2008, 0:07

    Sidey – That’s very interesting. I wonder, then, what happens if that remarks was in 2006 when Hamilton wasn’t racing in F1? How would he have been informed about it?

  15. Robert McKay said on 13th September 2008, 0:09

    “apparently during a driver’s meeting charlie raised this issue at some point in the past, and told drivers to relinquish a place and wait for the next corner before attempting another.

    the two didn’t mention any specifics, but i recorded the conversation so i’ll try and dig out the relevant part (from a 90min chat, may take a while), and post a link.

    if that’s is true, and it happened post suzuka, mclaren don’t stand much of a chance, and the fia clarification is just fine.”

    We discussed this on the live blog today, was interesting as I hadn’t heard it myself. The question was asked why, if Charlie knew about this rule, he then told Mclaren twice that they were ok. And it doesn’t also explain why the other drivers don’t seem to know any more about it than us.

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