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:
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:
- Miscarriage of justice in Spa – An excellent blow-by-blow dissection of the controversial move by Clive at F1 Insight
- The role of the stewards – Doctorvee looks at why race director Charlie Whiting might have changed his mind about the pass
- What others have to say about the penalty – A round-up of reaction from Ollie at BlogF1
- Much more on my StumbleUpon page
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