Hamilton and Raikkonen’s Fuji clash – the penalty they got wrong (Video)

Lewis Hamilton made a rash mistake at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix – but did it deserve the drive-through penalty he received?

Or to put it another way, has a driver ever got a penalty for forcing another driver off the track before?

After losing the lead to Kimi Raikkonen at the start Hamilton dived down the inside of the Ferrari driver to re-pass him at turn one. He clearly out-braked himself, and locked his tyres hard, forcing Raikkonen wide and onto the tarmac run-off.

Predictably, there’s nothing written in the rules about it. Article 16.1 of the sporting regulations allows the stewards to penalise drivers for forcing each other off the track.

But we’ve seen drivers force each other off the track many times in recent races, but I’m struggling to remember an occasion when anyone has been penalised for it. Hamilton wasn’t penalised for it with Timo Glock at Monza, nor Kimi Raikkonen when he forced Hamilton off the track at Spa.

It’s hard to see how Hamilton deserved a penalty for the move. And the precedent it sets is extremely strange:

Raikkonen out-braked himself at Monaco and took another driver out (Adrian Sutil) but didn’t get a penalty. So the rules seem to state that if you force a driver off the track and out of the race, you don’t get a penalty, but if you force another driver off the track and he stays in the race, you do get a penalty.

Where is the logic in that? Once again the FIA stewards have rendered a baffling verdict that leaves themselves open to accusations of inconsistency and favouritism.

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193 comments on Hamilton and Raikkonen’s Fuji clash – the penalty they got wrong (Video)

  1. Gougou said on 12th October 2008, 7:56

    But while he admitted his move on Raikkonen was incorrect, Hamilton was not happy that he received an equal penalty to Massa

  2. I’m starting to doubt Ham, Rai and Mas worthiness to be called WDC. Neither of them seem to ‘well-rounded’ or consistant enough. For years Ive disliked Alonso and been a devout Hamilton fan, but I’d rather see Alonso win the title again than any of the 3 I previously mentioned! It’s making the title interesting I have to admit but it seems the title winner in ’08 has been decided by the stewards and their decisions rather than racing on (or off! in some cases) the track.

  3. David - BR said on 12th October 2008, 8:03

    Bizarre decision by the stewards, which I suspect was dreamt up to balance out Massa’s inevitable penalty. If they’re right about penalizing Hamilton (and it was Kova who sent him off!!) then there probably should have been another 20 or so penalities this season alone for ‘forcing a driver off track’. I mean, it’s surreal.

    Bad start from Hamilton, but what happens next is stranger. After Raikkonen cuts in front of him, he possibly slows (bunching up to let Massa get closer). At the same time, Kovaleinen pulls alongside Hamilton, but (I think) eases off slightly to let Hamilton through inside, which he does. This is a split second decision and almost forced on Hamilton. If Raikkonen is slowing, he has to pull out and try to take him to ensure Massa doesn’t pass by. Kova duly gives him the space to try. Hence, I think, Hamilton’s attempt to repass Kimi is more or less forced on him.

    The same can’t be said for his pass on Massa afterwards, which seemed headstrong, but he actually got past very cleanly – only for Massa to effectively take him out of the race.

  4. John H said on 12th October 2008, 8:04

    He did outbrake himself, but a penalty for that was he fell 2 or 3 places – no need for the stewards. I agree with Brundle’s comment in the race… nanny state paranoia!

    It certainly wasn’t intentional like Massa’s. Saying all that, Lewis needs to grow up, and start to learn how to be cool in these situations if he wants a WDC & some respect.

  5. Alianora La Canta said on 12th October 2008, 8:06

    I’ve heard of drivers being reprimanded for forcing drivers off the track before – Michael Schumacher got a penalty for forcing Heinz-Harald Frentzen off the road in Canada 1998 – but it’s the first time I’ve seen one for a first-corner accident. That said, it was a particularly bad start. Any driver who nearly hits his team-mate, actually hits the driver in front of him and nearly hits the same driver again should probably expect official sanction. A drive-through was a reasonable way of dealing with the situation.

    I grant that there are no precedents for this precise situation. But on this occasion I think a wise precedent has been set and that was something that I had almost despaired of the FIA being capable of doing.

    As for previous unpenalised incidents, there is a regulation for that. Article 16.2 is the universal get-out clause for not penalising incidents that the stewards opt not to investigate. It’s an annoying rule at times, but I suppose there has to be some sort of statute of limitations in place.

  6. Tengil said on 12th October 2008, 8:10

    Canada 1998, M Schumacher came out of the pits and forced Frentzen off, according to this http://grandprix.com/gpe/rr621.html he got a 10 second stop and go penalty.

    Having said that, it is obvious to me that the FIA strive to punish McLaren when they can justify it and strives to clear Ferrari when they can justify it.
    edit, I see I got beaten to it, I type to slow ;)

  7. In no case should Hamilton and Massa receive egual penalty.
    Formula 1 is a joke right now, it should be called Ferrari 1!!!

  8. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th October 2008, 8:12

    Alianora – good point about Schumacher. But a very different incident I think – Schumacher came out of the pits as if Frentzen wasn’t there and quite literally pushed him off. What Hamilton did was, I thought, more similar to what Raikkonen did to Sutil at Monaco – except he didn’t actually end Raikkonen’s race!

    I can understand why Hamilton doesn’t get much sympathy for this. On top of all the usual reasons, he did make a bad mistake. But one worthy of a penalty? Definitely not in my view.

  9. What struck me more than all the drive-through penalties, was the fact that Hamilton tried to win the race in the first corner by a rather silly outbraking manoeuvre, and Massa trying to keep is hopes alive a few corners later. Not World Champion-like driving, that.

    World Champion-like driving, that doesn’t mean anything, not every race can be won cleanly with a total eye for overall race result. The moves by both Hamilton and Massa showed maybe not clear thinking at the wheel but they both want to be looked upon as the best in business and therefore don’t want to be overtaken easily.

  10. I grant that there are no precedents for this precise situation. But on this occasion I think a wise precedent has been set and that was something that I had almost despaired of the FIA being capable of doing.

    Alianora – It seems the Stewards are too eager to set precedents this year. I agree maybe more care should of been taken, but where is the line drawn between allowing drivers to race and saftey? My concern is that despite the revisions to the ’09 cars nobody will dare to try a pass for fear of a reprimand/drive-thru. The penalty has been given and as we are aware they cannot appeal it so it all seems a bit of a moot point now.

  11. Rob,

    I doubt drivers are going to be cautious about overtaking..

    If it was so, after Spa : we would have seen boring races.. drivers are willing to take the risks

  12. Once again Lewis has screwed the pooch, apparently believing in his own invincibility. Did he deserve the penalty? Absolutely not, but he also should not have put himself in the position to be arbitrarily penalized by the Stoopids.

    This does not bode well for the last two races.

    As for Massa, what’s left to be said? Can’t wait for the Stoopids decision on his contact with Bourdais. The reality is it shouldn’t be penalized either way, a racing incident. No doubt there will be a sanction against Sebby of some kind.

  13. SmASh0r said on 12th October 2008, 8:32

    Obviously Lewis made a hash of the 1st corner but I think to receive an equal penalty to Massa is unjust. If Lewis deserved a drive through (which was harsh) then Massa should have received a 10sec stop and go (not sure if the rules list this as punishment?).

    I am a big Lewis fan but he did make the mistake and let himself down. Being behind Kimi wasn’t the end of the world as there is every chance he had the pace to win it later on in the race.

  14. The decision to impose a penalty for Hamilton was bizarre. It’s one thing punishing someone for doing that during the race but this was the first corner. When talking about chicane cutting penalties, it was mentioned about Alonso gaining places by going off the road at the start in Singapore, but this was ignored because it was the first corner. And rightly so! With 20 cars all bombing into the same corner at roughly the same time, several cars abreast, it’s to be expected that there will be outbraking, slight nudging, running wide etc. But has there ever been a penalty for it before?

    Let’s take the blinkers off and look at the 2 incidents without the prejudice of who people want to win. How those 2 incidents can be punished in the same way is utterly baffling.

    Brundle had it spot on when saying that we’re getting paranoid about penalties. And that’s the fault of the FIA. I’d much rather see most incidents (first corner, Massa v Bourdais) be classified as “racing incident” without penalty, and the punishment be given to obvious punting of others off the road (Heiki v Kimi at Spa and Massa v Hamilton today). Now every little incident is being scrutinised to the finest detail to the detriment of the sport. And we can’t be far away from teams appealing for penalties claiming precedent. Let the drivers settle it on the track.

  15. winterbear said on 12th October 2008, 8:44

    It will be interesting to see if Hamilton can throw away a third WDC in 2009

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