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)

  1. Would they have made Hamilton cede the position again had Kimi not crashed.? Maybe they wanted to punish him in a similar way but Kimi took himself out.

    Regardless of where you stand on the penalty, you must admit it was handled poorly.

  2. “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?”

    the guys were sketchy on the details. it’s possible, even probable that lewis had no clue such matters were ever discussed. it may have come up post magny-cours though, impossible to speculate really.

  3. The ‘clarification’ was obviously made to protect the besieged FIA stewards. It appears clearer but this new ‘clear ruling’ actually means, in effect, that if, say, driver B cuts a corner, overtakes driver A in the process and then returns the position (as Lewis did), driver A can now drive as slow as he wants to the next corner without driver B being able to pass.

    This occurred to me because, really, Raikkonen was passed at La Source because he braked too early (insert famous Lewis ‘balls’ quote here) not because Hamilton ‘got an advantage’ at the chicane. (It’s tiresome repating this but: how did he gain an advantage if he returned a position – a full car length – when in fact he was level with KR at the entry and into the chicane and was shoved off line by him? The implicit argument of everyone claiming Hamilton deserved the penalty is that he ‘knew’ he wouldn’t make the corner without cutting it. But the fact is he *did* make the chicane and got alongside KR with enough room on track for both, i.e. it was a legitimate pass in full control of the car.)

    Anyhow, so no matter how slow KR had been in the rain, LH would have been stuck behind him, trundling along, until they got past La Source.

    Now imagine a scenario where driver A can help his team mate by slowing down driver B. Like most ‘clarifications’ of previously simple rules, it generates more potential problems than it solves. The rule was simple and understood by everyone – until it became convenient for FIA to undo their own mess by changing it.

  4. in matters like this, where the rules are not completely clear you have to look at precedent. This is commonly done in most courtrooms and should also be applied here. Another thing is the fact that McLaren put their best effort at relegating the situation. No matter what you think abot the team, its a stab in the back. Everybody knew it was a close call and they asked for approval. They got the go ahead and then later received a penalty. If a referee misses something at first they shouldn’t be able to go back and make decisions later. This is not fair to the drivers.

    Maybe Raikkonen should be given the win since he can argue that if Hamilton had been ordered to let him repass, Kimi wouldn’t have spun. Why make Massa the winner? Why put Hamilton 3rd? This is stupid and ridiculous. Make the call on the spot and stick to it. Don’t take a win from someone after they have tasted the champagne couse you sat in front of a screen watching replays for 3 hours and pondering about what should happen!! the stewards should be held responsible for making quick and stern decisions, and not change their minds after the race.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th September 2008, 0:44

    Makes you think maybe they should just put it in the rules. You know, like every other sport does…

  6. Hamilton was third because of the 25seconds rule which I believe is the time taken to serve a drive through penalty.

    Also I think it was mentioned somewhere that in the drivers briefing all the drivers were made aware of this on more than one occasion that if you cut a corner you have can’t pressurise the guy immediately into the next corner.

    And there’s only one difference between Suzuka and Spa and that is the distance between the two corners.

  7. rules? no, this is the FIA. as the saying goes rules are made to be broken, or in the FIA’s case, rules are meant to be made according to how it feels.

    seriously though, good, Hamilton is a well known kerb jumper, so now he gets told off its a travesty?.

  8. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th September 2008, 1:10

    Sush – The last time Hamilton got penalised for cutting a chicane I was all for it for the reasons I explained at the time, which is quite different to this situation: Video: Hamilton under pressure after error in French Grand prix

  9. It´s not fair that Driver B take a tow that he would never achieve (with today’s aerodynamics f1 behavior) if he didn´t came close enough to driver A.

    Alonso was a big cheater, if we can say that lousy thing about someone, because he clearly take a tow behind Klien.

    Hamilton didn´t even tried to go behind Kimi to take the unfair tow. He was only in a brief moment behind Kimi when the Finn decided to enter la Source wide open.

    If Kimi braked in the inner point , Hamilton would try to pass him outside again. And he would be not penalized in that case, I thing , because the overtake would be finished in the middle of the la Source or even after it.

    For sure there was no intention from Hamilton to cheat. That is the same thing to say a driver wants to have an accident or break the car.

    Kimi got to the left side of the track perhaps an unexpected move. If that move didn´t happened the Lewis maneuver would look quite clean

    The 3 events: 1)Chicane cut 2)devolution 3)overtaking thus, came in a stream that turned to be suspicious as the Alonso one was. And the drive need to bear in mind that he need to prove he is innocent in this case because he was already benefited by a run-off that could made he lost the race or have an worse accident…

  10. Daniel said on 13th September 2008, 1:39


    I think you made a great investigation! While I think Hamilton’s punishment was correct, because he indeed had an advantage by overtaking immediately after surrendering the position, we have a serious precedent that made McLaren and Lewis think they did enough to respect the rule and, altough stewards may vary from race to race (correct me if I’m wrong), the FIA Court of Appeal is the proper place to standartize jurisprudence.

    The need the FIA felt to clarify the rules “ex post facto” only makes McLaren’s chances grow stronger.

  11. theRoswellite said on 13th September 2008, 1:46

    The telling part of this decision, for me, is McLaren being informed….twice…..that Hamilton’s actions after the cut-corner were OK.

    I think in a group of reasonable people the interpretation of Hamilton’s pass might vary.

    But, I can’t conceive of a situation in which a team was told….DURING THE RACE….TWICE……that they were within the rules, and then after the race that decision was reversed. And importantly, not with with a minor punishment, but with one that may change the driver’s championship.

    And…did I miss, at least, an apology by the stewards over their own misdirection?

    It seems the stewards, above all others, would have previously insisted that this “problem area” be clarified, so as to avoid a situation like the one we have at present.

    As a result of the decisions and penalties coming out of Spa, my first question as a team manager would not be about procedures surrounding a driver cutting a corner while fighting for position; but about a more general situation………are directions from the stewards, during the race, to be considered reliable?
    If the answer to this question is no, or even maybe, we have a larger problem than that surrounding overtaking procedures.

  12. Macademianut said on 13th September 2008, 1:48

    The very fact that they have come out and said this means that they concede that it was not clear from the rules. As you mentioned Keith, they should amend the rules.

    I think the decision will be reversed in the courtroom as there is ample evidence that FIA botched the whole issue during the race and now they are doing everything to save face. I wouldn’t be surprised though if McLaren were not allowed to argue this as drive-through penalty cannot be questioned.

  13. TeamOrders said on 13th September 2008, 2:36

    I think this clarification is not only very welcome, it is a very fair and clear rule.

  14. TeamOrders said on 13th September 2008, 2:40

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

    That’s where the comparison breaks down though. Unlike Hamilton, Alonso did let Klein re-pass again, so the decision by the stewards was never needed. Guessing what the stewards might have decided had Alonso not allowed Klein to re-pass again is pure speculation.

  15. verasaki said on 13th September 2008, 2:40

    do i read a message of hope here? is it possible that the fia may actually consider a decision in the favour of what is actually right and just gave themselves the reason to do it?

    bated breath, brethren.

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