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. Steven Roy said on 14th September 2008, 1:19

    I have no intention in commenting on this thread again as I think the argument has been done to death but one thing needs to be clarified. Never has a driver been required to give back the advantage. He has only ever been required to give back the position and that has always been taken to mean dropping behind the car he had passed so that there is some (any) (even an inch) daylight between them.

    This latest interpretation is a knee jerk reaction to one incident and like most knee jerk clarifications in Max’s time it is a long term solution to a short term problem. Anyone who thinks it is a good idea is only considering it in relation to this one incident. Believe me there are implications which have not been considered which one day soon will have this ruling turned on its head. You don’t have to believe me just run a few alternative scenarios through your head and it is blindingly obvious that the new rule as written or spoken is not what was really intended. Tomorrow we have a circuit with chicanes which have been shortcut many times this weekend already and will be shortcut again during the race. I reckon there is an extremely good chance that something will happen which will make this rule look utterly ridiculous.

  2. the limit said on 14th September 2008, 2:39

    Over the course of the last week, I have heard many people make the argument that Hamilton was too impatient to pass Raikkonen at La Source, after jumping the chicane. With the benefit of hindsight, they are absolutely right, and I can imagine Lewis himself rues not doing that now.
    However, what everybody must realise, is what happened after Lewis’ La Source pass for the lead, and that is that Raikkonen had one of his most disastrous laps of his entire career. You would not have put money on the current world champion spinning twice on the same lap, the second of which cost him dearly. In Hamilton’s defence, he didn’t know that that was going to happen, no one did!
    Also, Hamilton maybe extremely talented, but he is still relatively inexperienced in Formula One, and at times his youthfull eagerness gets the better of him. It did at Magny Cours, it did at Montreal, and low and behold it did at Spa. It is in his makeup to go for the position whenever the position or opportunity arises, and that is exactly what he did going into La Source.
    Michael Schumacher, with all of his experience and craftyness, maywell have waited until the Kemmel straight before attempting the pass, knowing full well that passing at La Source ‘may’ incure a penalty. At the end of the day, experience counts, no matter how talented an individual maybe.
    Everybody must remember, that the vast majority of race going fans who complained about the penalty this week were not necessarily Lewis Hamilton fans. They were complaining because they had just finished watching one of the most exciting grands prix finishes of the last ten years, only to be told three hours later that what they had witnessed would not count. That is what angered fans like myself, along with millions of others, not the fact that it was Lewis Hamilton who was penalised. Far from it!!

  3. TeamOrders said on 14th September 2008, 4:31


    Drivers seem to agree Lewis was in the wrong.

    But of course it’s all a FIA/Ferrari conspiracy :rolls eyes:

  4. Taking directions post facto from the race director in this matter begs the questions: what are the Stewards’ qualifications? what training has prepared them for their role? What experience do they have?

    In this regard the FIA’s reaction has been shockingly mismanaged. No surprise to me that in fact Mosley’s reaction to the scandal was simply patroninising, accusing those who percieve bias of being “stupid”.

    In his position (as I would expect anyone with management experience to know) he should be ensuring that his organisation’s decision making process is seen to be crystal clear, and that he is in a position to emphasise the expertise, training and experience of his stewards.

    In other words to put the professional integrity and judgement of his officials beyond question

    He doesn’t of of course, because the idea that this might be important is not taken seriously. F! teams are highly professional outfits, it is my submission that the FIA is not. It is in fact little more than a network of “influential”and connected people with little practical relevant experience.

    FI teams and management should immediately pressure the FIA for greater transparency in the training, expertise, selection and decisions of stewards as a matter of utmost urgency, if the FIA does not get it’s house in order and become transparent and accountable, no new agreements (concorde or otherwise) should be signed

    The credibility of the sport demands it

  5. “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.”


    I simply cannot follow your logic. The two situations are nearly identical fundamentally.

    Furthermore, you referred above to the clarification of how the FIA interprets the yielding of position, and how someone Hamilton should be held to this standard. The FIA didn’t issue this interpretation in an official statement until AFTER this weekend’s GP. It is simply and positively unfair to punish drivers for breaking a rule or an interpretation of a rule before said rule/interpretation was officially issued.

    Also, Charlie Whiting himself during the race told McLaren that he was ok with what Hamilton did. This alone should exonerate Hamilton and McLaren, as Race Control gave the impression to them that they were conducting themselves within the sporting regulations. (Which, in my view, they were.) They acted based on the word of Charlie Whiting. Had Charlie Whiting said differently, McLaren and Hamilton would have acted differently. You cannot punish a team retroactively when the Race Director- the man who is responsible for interpreting situations like this- gives his seal of approval.

    What you’re essentially suggesting is that the FIA should act in a reactionary form with disregard for the rule of law. In other words, you are arguing that the FIA should be a fascist organization. When the FIA ignores the letter of the regulations and the in-race interpretation of the Race Director and imposes their never-before officially declared interpretation of constitutes a proper relinquishment of position, they are in fact acting as fascists. This is a very bad and dangerous way to run Formula One, and its something that should upset all fans. The FIA has acted similarly in past situations, one of which includes the asinine penalty against Alonso at Monza in 2006.

    Having read many of your posts, I have gradually come more and more to the conclusion that you are incapable of impartial analysis on any matter regarding Lewis Hamilton. I admire your passion as a Formula One fan, but you should allow passion to cloud reason. I am a Hamilton fan, but I will be the first to criticize him when he makes a mistake, as he has at Bahrain, Montreal, and Malaysia this year. (And I don’t even consider him to be the best right now, although I think he certainly can be.) If you want to have serious and informed discussions on topics like this, I would advise that you please check your biases at the front door, or at least acknowledge facts that establish validity for alternative points of view.

  6. Journeyer said on 14th September 2008, 10:17

    Keith, my thoughts: On further reflection, that Alonso-Klien move in 2005 SHOULD’VE been penalized. Because it’s against the spirit of the same rule Lewis crossed. As Martin said in the vid:

    ‘you can actually say that he had a slight advantage by coming from up high there’

    Martin added a but clause after, but looking at it hard and fair, Alonso should’ve been penalized.

    Alianora, you said:

    ‘The “clarification” ends up supporting Hamilton – he did wait until the next corner to pass Raikkonen, albeit the braking zone rather than the apex. So in fact the FIA has contradicted itself again.’

    I think the FIA meant wait until the next corner before you start CHALLENGING again. Fundamental difference there. Which means Lewis shouldn’t have challenged at La Source, he should’ve challenged at Eau Rouge at the earliest.

    ‘Also, if contacting Charlie Whiting is a mistake, why is a two-way connection in place, and why have the teams recently been asked to pay for it (among other things)?’

    I think Max had in mind that Charlie can directly contact the drivers for whatever reason (not sure what these could be).

    Paige and Sumedh, I don’t for the life of me see how you think Keith can’t be objective with Lewis. Let’s remember that Keith has also criticized Lewis on a number of occasions, such as Bahrain, Montreal (http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2008/06/09/why-do-million-dollar-f1-drivers-keep-making-mistakes-at-red-lights/), and Magny-Cours (http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2008/06/22/video-hamilton-under-pressure-after-error/). Let’s also remember that making a call for this incident was VERY marginal. It could’ve gone one way or ther other. And while I do agree with the penalty, I also understand why many don’t agree with it – these folks have very valid points too.

  7. The Limit #77,
    Talking about Schumacher having the patience, I do not believe you have seen tuHhe video of M.Schumacher vs Pedro De Larosa, Hungary 2006

  8. The drivers especially, and a few fans, believe that Hamilton did gain an advantage, but the penalty was too harsh. For those who side with Hamilton and say the 25-second penalty should be reversed (Hamilton back to 1st, Massa 2nd, Heidfeld 3rd) how would you feel if Hamilton were given back the win at Spa, but then penalized 10 grid spots in Singapore?

  9. One last thing, and I believe it was brought up earlier in this thread, are we sure that it was the STEWARDS reversing their decision during the race in the Alonso case or was it race control? In the Hamilton case, all race communications were between McLaren and race control, not the stewards.

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