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. verasaki said on 13th September 2008, 2:52

    btw- keith, you rock for finding the vids you post. especially since this one isn’t just a snippet. just a yanks point of view, i can see why everyone likes brundle. hmmm. if the beeb doesn’t want him, we’ll take him. he’d make a nice bookend for matchett-who they can’t have.

  2. Barret said on 13th September 2008, 3:00

    This could have gone either way. It happens in sports. Get over it.

  3. Oliver said on 13th September 2008, 5:13

    @Brar #24,
    You don’t even have an idea what a tow is. You talk like you know what you are saying when in actual fact you do not. If you have watched a replay of the pass you’ll find that the word “tow” doesn’t even figure in this incident.

  4. We could quite easily substitute ‘Alonso’ for ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Klien’ for ‘Raikkonen’ in the above
    Sorry but I dont agree with that. You have missed a crucial point in the argument:
    Could anyone overtake the car in front at the next corner following the car thru the previous corner properly?(you know the chicane in question)

    The answer to this question in Lewis-Kimi case is a solid ‘No’(echoed by every driver except Lewis). I dont know the answer to the quesion in Suzuka 2005 case but I think(with my limited F1 knowledge) its ‘Yes’.

    There you go the argument given by the drivers against the Belgium move is different than the incident at Suzuka.

    My next point is that just coz FIA changes a rule does not mean it wasnt valid at a different situation in the past. What a rule change genrally means is that FIA realized that some knowledge wasnt ‘clear’ and had to explain it using the constraints of cars and tracks.

    They can make a long complex rule explaining the length of straights you may be allowed to overtake on… For example Belgium’s back straight is (I think) the longest in F1 calendar. If the incident had happened there, then I doubt the Stewards would have questioned the move, simply looking at the difference in speeds of the Mc Laren and Ferrari.

    What I find hard to digest is that ‘the drivers’ for whom this rule means the most seem to understand it the best and agree that infringement happened, its just the fans and the tv viewers that are hell bent on making this a conspiracy theory!

  5. For sure

  6. Hass: Sorry I was ansewering to Oliver.

    Haas: there is not new Fia rules. Perhaps new formalisition on things we should agree abour

  7. Oliver said on 13th September 2008, 5:45

    @Brar
    I must have got things mixed up when reading your comments. I thought initially u were referring to Hamilton, when in actual fact you were talking about Alonso.

  8. Taking the win away from Hamilton for the alleged offense is akin to issuing a death penalty for jay walking!

    Regardless of our differing opinions on whether the stewards were right or wrong, it’s the severity of the penalty that rubs most (including the referenced drivers) the wrong way.

    And hence, all the “FIA Favors Ferrari” implications.

  9. Very biased article Keith, I did not see this coming.

    I can’t understand why you are trying to defend Hamilton’s pass at La Source, which was clearly a case of not handling back the advantage.

    In my book, what lets Hamilton off the hook is his spin while passing the Williams. Since, he inadvertently returned the place and advantage there; in the very same lap.
    Alonso returned the place and advantage to Klein about 2-3 laps after passing him illegally, and he was not penalized. Hamilton did that in the same lap, but he was penalized.
    You chose to ignore these facts.

  10. Oliver said on 13th September 2008, 6:01

    Haas,

    You make a fair point and applied some logic to your reasoning. But it’s very difficult to arrive at that conclusion you just did, because, The way Kimi took that final chicane was not the optimum way. So its very possible he would not be able to accelerate out of that corner as normal had he used the correct line through it.
    We also have to take into consideration that, It was raining at this time, and Kimi was already suffering from a lack of grip which was why he braked very early prior to the chicane and also afterwards.

  11. Oliver said on 13th September 2008, 6:11

    .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.

  12. Oliver said on 13th September 2008, 6:17

    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.

  13. FIA”T” keeping the rules muddy is in the best interest of FIArrari. ’nuff said.

  14. 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 :-)

  15. scuseria fan said on 13th September 2008, 6:51

    HAMILTON SHOULD BE PENALIZED!!!!!!!!!!!!

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