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

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

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.

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

  1. .Sumedh

    There is nothing biased about this article. Keep an open mind. The subject isn’t if Hamilton crossed the chicane. Or of he deserves the win.
    The matter at hand is, why did “Race Control”, after Mclaren had sought clarification, say Hamilton had surrendered the lead. Not once but twice.
    Do not allow your dislike for a driver cloud your reasoning.

    And from your statement it is also obvious you did not understand what Keith just wrote which was. “The stewards were satisfied that Alonso had surrendered the lead the first time and where comfortable with him repassing on that same straight.” But by then the stewards had already “made a mistake” by asking him to surrender the lead a second time.

    Read the article again and understand what is being said.

  2. Keith. I think also the FIA has to cut down on all use of extra track space. Not just only when a driver over takes. Because running off track can also be used to make up ground on cars ahead. This is something Kimi is known to do very much. If you have the video of last years race at Fuji. Kimi was able to overtake Coulthard, by running off track repeatedly and gaining ground. And that is cheating. And he keeps getting away with it.

  3. Oliver

    By Keith’s chronology of events;
    Move no. 4 = Alonso passing Klein at Turn 1, Suzuka. This WAS wrong. Thus, step 5 : Instructing Alonso to let Klein re-pass him is totally justified.

    However, the step 7. canceling the instruction, this WAS a mistake by stewards. You can’t re-take a place in the next corner; its just unfair.

    Did the stewards ask Lewis to return the place after La Source ( Like Alonso-Klein)?? We will never know. Why?? Since he returned it fairly soon by spinning.

    Also, the ‘2 Charlie Whiting okays’ refer to Lewis’s letting pass of Kimi at the chicane. And they do not refer to the pass of Lewis at La Source. Read that part carefully, since I think you are confused about what exactly Charlie Whiting was okay with.

    Oliver, relax: I also like Lewis, but his pass was wrong. We both want him to be off the hook; except our reasons are totally different :-)

  4. @Sumedh

    “Also, the ‘2 Charlie Whiting okays’ refer to Lewis’s letting pass of Kimi at the chicane. And they do not refer to the pass of Lewis at La Source. Read that part carefully, since I think you are confused about what exactly Charlie Whiting was okay with.”

    So are you saying that in between Lewis abandoning the pass at the chicane and overtaking into La Source, McLaren asked CW twice if the chicane move was ok?

    All this talk of ‘unfair’ and ‘cheating’ etc just doesn’t wash with me. It either complies with the rules or it doesn’t. In this case, Hamilton’s move did comply with the law in it’s previous state. Just about! The rule did need clarification and hopefully we shouldn’t be robbed of an exciting finish again.

    I think it’s worth asking the question, would there have been hundreds of comments on this site complaining about the stewards if there had been no investigation and no penalty?

  5. The jury is out on this whole saga, I must say. And no matter what the Court of Appeal decides, later this month, it will not stop discussions and disappoint people one way or an other.

    However, I would like to emphasise two point already mentioned above:

    1) Charlie Whiting is NOT the stewards — McLaren said to themselves. Whiting might have said that Hamtilton’s move was OK twice, but the stewards make the calls, not Whiting. By the way, Jonahtan noble says something interesting in this week’s Autosport Journal: “McLaren were certainly in enough doubt about the legality of the situation by asking FIA race director Charlie Whiting twice for confirmation that it was okay.”

    2) Hamilton effectively DID give back the position which he won during the doubtful move into La Source, namely when he went off the track in the Rosberg incident. This is what actually makes it comparable to the Alonso-Klien incident at Suzuka ’05.

    An other interestion observation: Hamilton moved off his line several times to defend his position from Räikkönen on Kemmel straight. He was on the right of the track coming out of Radillion, swered left with Räikkönen on his tail, then right again, and finally left to make the corner. Maybe he should be penalised for that? ;)

  6. That Lewis should have waited till the next corner is exactly what the Ferrari pilot Marc Gene said in his blog (I did post that here when the storm started). Since that apparently was discussed in pilots meetings that makes sense. Lewis might not know about that, the team should. Again, an example of how to mess a beatiful race.

  7. @Juan H, exactly, most of the drives know the rules more than the weekend f1 watchers in here, they are all briefed on the rules and things to watch for before every race weekend and the team was in enough doubt to confirm 2 times about the situation, if they were in so much doubt they should have told him to wait the extra corner.

  8. Supposing there was no wrong thing done, and I say supposing (as there was), saying that Charlie gave the clearance is like telling a referee didn’t say a penalty but finally it was.

    Things live look far different that those things once you can see when you have some seconds to think about this.

    But hey! let’s continue with the fanboyism forever!

    btw, what about a report on Lewis last words about their colleagues?

  9. To Amy @ 5 and Keith @ 6… I disagree. The rule did not change, this clarification issued by the FIA was really to clarify things for the media & F1 fans / commentators, not the drivers. The drivers have briefings in which rules are discussed and they are fully aware of the rules. Hamilton and his team were aware of this “advantage” rule which is why they tried to give the advantage away, bottom line was that they did not do enough, Hamilton’s car had too much momentum. So agree with Juan and Todd, the drivers and teams are fully informed re the rules and didn’t really need the clarification. Hamilton took a gamble & lost.

  10. Mosley: “I think it’s a reflection, and I’m sorry to say this, of the stupidity of the people who say it”

    I’vce just been called stupid by a Nazi. Pot Kettle Black much?

  11. Although welcome, I think there are still some grey areas in this new rule. It says a driver has to wait for another corner if he wants to try a move again. But imagine driver X cuts the first chicane at Monza, gives the place back and retakes it at the second chicane. Not against the rules, since between those chicanes there’s Curva Grande, a very fast right-hander. That corner is taken as if it was a straight, but it’s a corner nonetheless. So a driver gives the place back, but still has an advantage because in the next “corner” it can get a slipstream. How to decide that?

  12. Kate – if the FIA are changing the rules of racing in private and only telling the drivers, its hardly surprising there’s going to be a public uproar when a driver loses a race because of one of these ‘phantom rules’.

    As I wrote in comment 20, obviously the best thing to do would be to have these rules written down but clearly even that basic level of transparency is beyond the FIA.

  13. It was contentious back then too but there have been many driver briefings since and most of the other drivers felt it was clear & support the fia. Alonso also fell back further and the straight looked longer. I think the stewards did their job. If its now the next corner all well and good, things evolve.

  14. @ Keith
    > … if the FIA are changing the rules of racing in private and only telling the
    > drivers, its hardly surprising there’s going to be a public uproar…
    Maybe they believe that all publicity is good publicity. Which, in case of F1, I might believe. I’d bet there’s more viewers this weekend because of Spa.

  15. having rules set in stone (writing them all down exactly) would be a damn huge book.

    and if they were all written down there would be no need for stewards, it would be a guy in a room checking what happened against what’s written down.

    and if it all was written down, all the teams would just spend their time working out what isn’t written down, and how to get around it.

    as much as i’m a schumi fan, that’s part of the reason they aren’t written down, cause he’d exploit them like he usually does.

    the idea behind having stewards and not set in stone rules is to keep racing ‘sportsman like’.

    common sense and respecting your fellow sportsman is a part of being in a sport.

    f1 isn’t your average sport, so to govern them and to take people to point (penalise them) it’s done by 3 impartial ‘judges’ who decide if the sporting incident in question was an acceptable move, and did the person in question be a good sport and give back what he gained?

    they look at more data then we have, more cameras than we have and decide better than we could.

    from there they give one of 3 penalites that ARE in the FIA rule book, a fine, a stop and go (25 seconds) or a 10 spot penalty – those are the 3 options in the FIA playbook and it’s up to the stewards to pick one.

    end of the day it’s too much to write down and govern, it’ll end up being more rules then is needed and people would get caught out on a rules that don’t apply to their situation – this is where common sense and good sportsmanship comes into play and if your not playing fair then the stewards are going to slap you.

  16. Todd – it’s a nice idea in theory but it all falls apart because no-one knows what ‘sportsmanlike’ is in this context. Take the Alonso video as an example – the stewards couldn’t decide if he’d done right or wrong. And again with the Hamilton penalty – Whiting thought it was fine, but then either changed his mind or the stewards overruled him.

    We need clear, transparent, consistent and fair rules to stop needless controversies like this.

  17. nice one from Max:

    “The worst thing is the possibility that you have a spin and a collision between two cars, which is a nightmare for us. That is something that none of our safety procedures can deal with.”
    Max? Valencia? Massa ? safety – ring the bell ?

    “Because when that rain came down on one of the fastest circuits in the world and most of the cars are on dry tyres, it is a very dangerous situation.”
    There a lot of people think that Hamilton cut chicane to avoid collision in first place…

    “I think there were two mistakes made there,” said Mosley about the exchange between McLaren and Whiting. “One is that McLaren should not have asked Charlie. The second is that he should not have answered.”
    nice … nice … Max is always full of surprises

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>