Five years, over 35 incidents: Has Hamilton been treated fairly?

Debates

Lewis Hamilton has been no stranger to controversy in his first five years in Formula 1.

This has led to claims and counter-claims over whether the FIA stewards treat the McLaren driver too harshly.

With that in mind I’ve compiled data on Hamilton’s many visits to the stewards on a range of minor and major charges, whether he was the innocent or aggrieved party. Do they reveal anything about Hamilton’s form before the stewards?

2007

Race Incident Outcome Notes
Hungary Alonso blocks Hamilton in the pits during qualifying Five-place grid penalty for Alonso, team lose constructors’ points for race Hamilton, who inherited pole position, had ignored a team instruction to let Alonso start his lap first.
Japan Kubica collides with Hamilton Kubica given a drive-through penalty
Japan Collision between Vettel and Webber behind Hamilton during safety car period No action taken on Hamilton. Vettel initially given ten-place penalty, later reduced to a reprimand. Only investigated after evidence emerged in video shot by fan
Brazil Hamilton, Button and Sato use an extra set of wet tyres in practice All teams have to return extra set and pay ??15,000 fines Occurred in practice for championship-deciding race
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren. Interlagos, 2007

Hamilton had few visits to the stewards in his first season

Hamilton’s first season saw some contentious decisions which gave a foretaste of what was to come.

There were no consequences for Hamilton at the Nurburgring when marshals used a crane to place his car back on the track – Hamilton still inside – after he spun off in a rain storm. The rules were later changed to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Hamilton was judged blameless when Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel collided behind him during a safety car period in Japan. But, following a second investigation after a new video of the incident, emerged a penalty initially given to Vettel was reduced.

At the season finale Ferrari alleged Hamilton had caused Kimi R??ikk??nen to lose time in qualifying, but they did not appeal and the stewards did not investigate the incident.

Hamilton lost the championship to Raikkonen in the race. Afterwards the cars of Williams and BMW faced a protest over using fuel of an incorrect temperature. Had they been thrown out and points redistributed, Hamilton might have won the championship, but no such action was taken.

Hamilton was not directly implicated in the ‘spygate’ affair which saw McLaren thrown out of the constructors’ championship and fined $100m.

2008

Race Incident Outcome Notes
Malaysia Hamilton and Kovalainen impede Heidfeld and Alonso in qualifying Five-place grid drop for Hamilton and Kovalainen
Europe Hamilton arrives late for FIA press conference ??5,000 fine
Canada Hamilton crashes into Raikkonen in the pit lane Ten-place grid drop for next race Rosberg received same penalty for same infringement
France Hamilton cuts a chicane while overtaking Vettel Drive-through penalty for Hamilton
Belgium Hamilton overtakes Raikkonen at the corner after he had gone off the track and allowed Raikkonen past Post-race time penalty, which cost him his victory McLaren’s appeal rejected as “inadmissible”
Japan Raikkonen goes off the track as Hamilton runs wide in turn one Drive-through penalty for Hamilton
Japan Hamilton hit by Massa Drive-through penalty for Massa
Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Spa-Francorchamps, 2008

Raikkonen and Hamilton had several incidents in 2008

Many of the penalties Hamilton received in his second season were straightforward and uncontroversial: impeding in Malaysia, taking out Raikkonen in Canada, cutting a corner in France.

However the stewards’ decision to strip him of his victory in Belgium was an absolute travesty.

Hamilton was forced off the track by Raikkonen while battling the Ferrari driver for the lead. Hamilton returned to the track, gave the lead back to Raikkonen, then overtook him at the next corner.

In judging this an illegal move and handing Hamilton a 25-second penalty, the stewards contradicted recent precedent. They handed the win not to the driver Hamilton had allegedly transgressed against, but his team mate, who was never in the hunt for victory.

Hamilton had another penalty for a strange incident with Raikkonen in Japan, where the McLaren driver braked too late for the first corner and ran wide, along with several other cars.

2009

Race Incident Outcome Notes
Australia Hamilton and McLaren give “deliberately misleading” evidence over circumstance in which Trulli passed him during safety car period Exclusion from the race results McLaren later fired sporting director Dave Ryan over the incident
Malaysia Hamilton exceeds the pit lane speed limit in practice ??1,200 fine
Belgium Hamilton and Alguersuari collide on the first lap No action taken Both drivers retired
Hungary Raikkonen makes contact with Hamilton and Vettel on the first lap No action taken Neither Hamilton nor Vettel were impeded by the contact
Italy Hamilton exceeds the pit lane speed limit in practice ??2,400 fine
Italy Buemi runs down an escape road to avoid Hamilton during Q1 No action taken Buemi was eliminated in Q1 but Hamilton probably made no difference to this
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren. Melbourne, 2009

McLaren were caught red-handed in Melbourne

Few edicts from the stewards’ office had much consequence for Hamilton in 2009 – with one significant exception.

During a safety car period in the first race of the season Hamilton moved ahead of Jarno Trulli when the Toyota driver went off the track. Under instruction from his team, Hamilton then allowed Trulli to re-pass him, still behind the safety car.

But McLaren gave a different version of events to the stewards, who initially punished Trulli. When the truth emerged Trulli was reinstated and Hamilton disqualified.

2010

Race Incident Outcome Notes
Malaysia Hamilton changes line more than once defending from Petrov Hamilton shown the black-and-white flag for unsportsmanlike driving A seldom-seen form of reprimand
China Hamilton and Vettel found to have “driven in a dangerous manner” when exiting the pits alongside each other Hamilton and Vettel given reprimands
Canada Team tell Hamilton to stop on track after setting his fastest time at the end of Q3 $10,000 fine and reprimand
Europe Hamilton overtakes the safety car as it leaves the pits Hamilton given a drive-through penalty
Singapore Hamilton and Webber collide No action taken Hamilton retired due to damage
Abu Dhabi Hamilton crosses the white line at the pit lane entry during practice Hamilton given a reprimand
Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Singapore, 2010

Webber and Hamilton collide in Singapore

Hamilton was perhaps fortunate to avoid a more severe penalty for overtaking the safety car in Valencia. He had been disqualified for doing the same thing in a GP2 race at Imola in 2006.

He collected a series of reprimands during the year for both driving and other infringements.

One of which was the team’s instruction for him to stop the car after qualifying in Canada as he was low on fuel. He kept his pole position, and it’s doubtful his low fuel level was what secured it for him.

2011

Race Incident Outcome Notes
Malaysia Hamilton changes line more than once defending from Alonso Hamilton given post-race time penalty Similar to what he had been warned about the year before.
Malaysia Alonso hits Hamilton while racing for position Alonso given post-race time penalty
Spain Hamilton sets personal best time in sector two during the race while yellow flags are displayed Hamilton given reprimand
Monaco Hamilton cuts chicane in qualifying Hamilton loses best time from qualifying
Monaco Hamilton and Massa collide Hamilton given drive-through penalty
Monaco Hamilton and Maldonado collide Hamilton given post-race time penalty
Canada Hamilton and Button collide No action taken – stewards determine it a racing incident
Canada Hamilton’s decision to stop his car on the track is investigated No action taken – team mistakenly believed Hamilton had suspension damage
Hungary Hamilton spins his car around in front of di Resta, who goes off the circuit avoiding him Hamilton given drive-through penalty for forcing another car off the track
Belgium Hamilton and Maldonado make contact twice, before and after the end of Q2 Maldonado diven five-place grid drop, Hamilton given reprimand
Singapore Hamilton and Massa collide Hamilton given drive-through penalty
Japan Hamilton and Massa collide No action taken
India Hamilton and Perez ignore double waved yellow flags in practice Hamilton and Perez given three-place grid drops
India Hamilton and Massa collide Massa given drive-though penalty
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren. Monaco, 2011

Hamilton received two penalties in the Monaco Grand Prix

The previous year, Hamilton had been warned by the stewards for changing his line more than once while defending his position at Sepang. Unsurprisingly, they escalated his penalty to a drive-through when he repeated the move on Alonso 12 months later.

Hamilton’s penalty for spinning his car in front of Paul di Resta during the Hungarian Grand Prix attracted much comment. Adrian Sutil received a reprimand and $20,000 fine for spinning into the side of Nick Heidfeld in Singapore two years earlier in similar circumstances – a penalty that looks too lenient on Sutil in retrospect.

His collision with Pastor Maldonado in the Monaco Grand Prix might have been avoided had Maldonado shown the kind of awareness Michael Schumacher had when Hamilton made an identical move on the Mercedes driver earlier in the race.

Had Maldonado survived the incident I suspect Hamilton would not have been penalised, as it often seems the stewards place too much weight on the consequences of an incident, rather than whether a drivers’ move was acceptable or not in the first place.

But on the whole Hamilton’s penalties this year have been entirely typical of what would be expected.

Conclusions

You can make a lot of criticisms about the FIA stewards: They are not always consistent. They too rarely give explanations for their more contentious decision.

They use penalties which can vary enormously in effect with the circumstances and produce outcomes that are excessively severe (Spa 2008) or unduly lenient (Valencia 2010).

This goes for all drivers including Lewis Hamilton. Consistent application of the rules is a bugbear for fans of many sports and F1 is no exception.

But the evidence above does not support claims that the stewards pursue a line for or against Hamilton.

And, though he may imply otherwise in the heat of the moment, nor do I think Hamilton believes he gets unfair treatment from them.

In 2007, Hamilton voiced his displeasure at the handling of the Fuji safety car incident, saying: “I just think it?s a real shame for the sport.

“Formula 1′s supposed to be about hard, fair competition. That’s what I’ve tried to do this year, just be fair. There?s been some real strange situations this year where I?m made to look the bad person and, by the looks of it, this weekend be given a penalty. If this is the way it?s going to keep going it?s not somewhere I really want to be.”

Four years and some 30-odd incidents later, if Hamilton seriously thought the stewards had it in for him surely he’d be long gone already.

Do you think the stewards have treated Hamilton fairly or unfairly? Which decisions do you agree or disagree with? Have your say in the comments.

If you believe I have overlooked any significant incidents involving Hamilton please supply details in the comments, including a reference to the relevant stewards’ report if possible.

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276 comments on Five years, over 35 incidents: Has Hamilton been treated fairly?

  1. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 3rd November 2011, 11:49

    I largely agree with this. If you asked me who was at fault in these incidents, I’d go with the stewards 95% of the time. The problem is the fault = penalty mentality F1 seems to have and an inconsistent application of it and the scale of punishment.

  2. Becken Lima (@becken-lima) said on 3rd November 2011, 11:53

    Yeah, very brave article. Congrats, Keith.

    From my view, I wouldn’t’ say that the stewards had a personal rant against Lewis, or that he has been treated unfairly. But they are more lenient with others drivers. It is clear.

    In the process, the stewards are leaving a track of inconsistences. Ok, the sport is very complex, but what a see is only incompetence from them.

    http://www.viddler.com/explore/f1around/videos/13/

    • Mike (@mike) said on 3rd November 2011, 14:41

      I don’t understand your point with the video.

      But they are more lenient with others drivers. It is clear.

      I would like to see an explanation, perhaps with examples? of how this is true.

  3. taurus (@taurus) said on 3rd November 2011, 11:53

    Stewards are way too harsh with all drivers now. I find ten-place grid penalties for having a crash in a previous race a ridiculous idea. Any slight touch or contact resulting in minor damage is jumped on by the stewards with drive through penalties. Handing out penalties willy-nilly takes away from the racing. Sooner or later drivers will be so frightened to stick their noses up the inside that we’ll revert to DRS and pit stop overtakingonly.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:12

      Then again, with 5 place drops for a broken gearbox at the wrong moment, and a 10 place drop for a new engine (poor Maldonado – a bad car, poor reliablility and pace, and now he is almost guaranteed to start Abu Dhabi at the back of the grid unless someone else gets some good penalties during the weekend!), it makes sense that they also escalate other penalties that are to send a message about safety on track, which is much more vital.

      So maybe they should just ease those penalties now, since only unlucky teams that are in the dumps seem to need them. Well, and Hamilton :-p

  4. Theres no point just pointing out Hamiltons innodents and asking wether they seem fair or not, you have to look at it in relation to what they give other drivers for similiar offenses.

    Aus 2010 for example, Hamilton and Alonso battling for position about 3 car lengths infront of Webber, Webber has a brain-fart moment and dosnt seem to realise that 2 cars side by side infront of him will be going a bit slower than normal, and as a result runs into the back of Hamilton, spinning him out. A complely avoidable accident, and as far as i remember, nothing happend to Webber.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd November 2011, 11:58

      you have to look at it in relation to what they give other drivers for similar offences.

      Which I have done for some relevant examples.

      • John H (@john-h) said on 3rd November 2011, 13:13

        Maybe we could compare with a similar full list for another driver, perhaps Button or someone.

        It’s all relative.

        This list clearly shows that by the regulations, Hamilton has deserved most if not all these penalties – which is good. But have other drivers got off a little more lightly for similar infringements? I guess that is the question that needs more analysis perhaps.

  5. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 3rd November 2011, 11:55

    RE Canada 2011

    No action taken – team mistakenly believed Hamilton had suspension damage

    I thought his suspension was damaged. It looked very much broken to me. That’s a major fail from McLaren if he only had a puncture…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:00

      @damonsmedley

      That’s a major fail from McLaren if he only had a puncture…

      According to the stewards that was the case:

      Having heard from the driver and the team representative, the stewards have concluded that the driver was convinced he only had a flat tyre. This was subsequently confirmed by the team representative to be correct.

      The driver therefore believed he could safely return to the pits and proceeded to attempt to do so.

      However at the time, his team believed the car had sustained suspension damage and radioed him to stop immediately.

      See: McLaren: Button makes amends for collision with stunning win

      • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:13

        @keithcollantine

        I vaguely remember reading that now, thanks.

        That’s a massive shame, but you can understand why the team would have told him to stop after what happened with Vettel in Melbourne 2009.

        Ifs and buts, but given the pace of McLaren that day and the amount of trouble Jenson ran into after that incident, it’s not out of the question that Lewis could have beaten him.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:16

        One of the many not so smart decisions by McLaren that was the computer telling them something and they not engaging a brain to check it but rather deciding to fully trust it and act accordingly. I hope Sam Michael will pick up on that and at least use his brain there, sorting them out for next year, which would go a long way to keeping them more competitive with Red Bull.

  6. JJ8271_F1 said on 3rd November 2011, 11:56

    Only showing the incidents that LH was involved in means you cannot judge if the stewards acted fairly or not where Lewis is concerned. You would need to look at every other similar incident that every other driver has been involved in over the last 5 years and see what their punishment/penalty was for same or similar incidents, only then would you be able to judge the stewards fairness, or whether they were biased in favour or against Lewis. I can think of one incident off the top of my head where Michael Schumacher moved off line more than once or more than one occassion and pushed Lewis off track at Monza 2011 and not only was he not penalised during the race or after it he wasn’t even reprimanded.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:03

      Michael Schumacher moved off line more than once or more than one occassion and pushed Lewis off track at Monza 2011

      No he didn’t. If you watch the video you’ll see he moves off-line, then he moves back towards the racing line, but he doesn’t make a second move off-line.

      See: Mercedes: Schumacher fifth after Hamilton battle

      And as I said in an earlier comment, I have drawn some comparisons with other drivers’ penalties where relevant.

      • JJ8271_F1 said on 3rd November 2011, 12:18

        Even MSC’s his own team thought he was doing the wrong thing and told him on more than one occassion over the radio. But even putting this incident aside, you would need to look at how lenient or harsh the stewards have been on other drivers for same or similar incidents to get the bigger picture of whether the stewards have been fair or not where LH is concerned.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:48

          Even MSC’s his own team thought he was doing the wrong thing

          Yes, but that was not making two moves. That was not giving Hamilton enough room when he returned to the racing line, something the stewards have clarified since then.

      • W-K (@w-k) said on 3rd November 2011, 13:23

        Is moving back to the racing line legal, that is the second move and as laid down by the rules is illegal. It, as shown by the Hamilton 2008 Spa incident, just because it has been done before does not make it a precedent.

  7. Girts (@girts) said on 3rd November 2011, 11:57

    I don’t think that Hamilton has been treated unfairly. For sure, race stewards are only human beings, they make mistakes and have made some mistakes when making decisions about the incidents where Hamilton has been involved. But I don’t believe that they have made them on purpose.

    What I see here, is a problem with the general approach that race stewards have. ‘Clean driving’ is being promoted these days, Hamilton’s daring and adventurous moves are often considered to be ‘dirty driving’, which should be punished. Hamilton’s driving style is simply not what those who are responsible for applying the rules want to see.

    I disagree with such an approach and would be sad if Hamilton lost his self-confidence and started to feel that F1 is not the right place for him because of the many penalties.

    We probably don’t know a lot about how drivers like Alberto Ascari or Juan Manuel Fangio behaved on the track when they were racing because there weren’t 1000 TV cameras that could spot their each and every move then. Probably they were even more aggressive than Hamilton and today would spend all their spare time in the stewards’ rooms to explain their actions. Yet we consider them to be great drivers. Why treat Hamilton differently, why just not let him drive the way he does? F1 didn’t destroy itself when there were no penalties for “causing a collision” and it wouldn’t nowadays.

    Just let Hamilton and everyone else drive, that’s my opinion.

  8. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:10

    I agree with everything you’ve said Keith.

    The stewards are very inconsistent and I personally think the rule-book needs a major overhaul. Nothing is clear and too often we see different rulings for similar (if not identical) incidents.

    The reference you make to Sutil in Singapore 2009 is a very good point. I actually defended Hamilton in Hungary, but I’d have been able to make a much better case if I’d used that as an example.

    I’ve disagreed with a lot of the decisions this year, and I’ve agreed with a lot, too. I was pleased Hamilton received a drive-through for running into Hamilton in Singapore, but since then, I’ve started to wonder if the penalty system is too harsh. It seems that nearly every bit of contact we’ve seen between two drivers this year has resulted in an investigation and – more often than not – punishment.

    The rulings I disagree with are:

    Belgium 2008 – It was unprecedented and very harsh.

    Malaysia 2011 – His weaving didn’t affect Alonso in any way at all.

    Hungary 2011 – Initially, I defended him using the excuse that it all happened too quickly and it was an honest mistake made in a panic, but I think the Sutil point is a much more valid argument.

    India (Qualifying) – I think both drivers should have been let off considering it was a very unusual occurrence. It’s not impossible that Lewis saw the green light and kept going, not even checking for double-waved yellows (I mean, who would double check to see if they’ve made a mistake when there’s a flashing green light?).

    India (Race) – It was a racing incident, but there was more Hamilton could have done to avoid it. Neither of them deserved a penalty.

  9. Stewart (@douglst) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:13

    I would be interested to read a debrief on all of the on track race incidents, I understand what Keith is trying to do here but a lot of these incidents were not on track during the race (in practice/qual, not turning up to press conf, stopping on track) take those out and the list shrinks plus a few of the on track ones were in unique situations ( red light in pit lane, overtaking safety car, incident behind the safety car).

    I don’t think the stewards have it in for him because they are different each race, which goes to the consistency argument many have, for me the worst example of inconsistency is the pen for changing lines on one lap against Alo in Malaysia watch a YouTube clip of it and compare it to what Schey did at Monza for several laps. I can’t see how that works.

    Plus the general theme of looking to blame someone and give them a penalty is far more prevalent these days I would have a lot of the above as racing incidents with no pens required.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd November 2011, 14:13

      @douglst

      I would be interested to read a debrief on all of the on track race incidents

      If you follow the links in the tables there’s a lot more information there.

      • Stewart (@douglst) said on 3rd November 2011, 21:21

        Keith, I am talking more about a detailed analysis of each incident, comparing with other similar incidents and in your opinion whether you think blame can be apportioned, if a pen was warranted or if it was a racing incident. A bit more like what you did for the Mas v Ham India accident where you gave your views and the reasons for them.

        I clicked on the link of the web v ham in Singapore and did not have much there, other than a couple of quotes.

  10. coefficient (@coefficient) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:29

    “some people will defend Hamilton to the death, some people will put him down at every given oppurtunity.”

    In my experience you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you pick up on a Hamilton issue you get tarred as a Hamilton hater and then of course you must surely be a Button fan. People just love to pounce regardless, I guess objective criticism doesn’t sate some people.

    This is the problem with text based forums unfortunately, its impossible to glean true sentiment from cold text.

  11. JJ8271_F1 said on 3rd November 2011, 12:30

    I actually believe the stewards don’t know how to deal with Lewis because he is a very agressive driver and takes every little chance that opens up to him no matter how small and surely that’s what a racing driver is supposed to do? They are not all out there going for a stroll in the park, they are racing drivers in very fast cars going out to win and sometimes that means there will be contact, that’s the nature of the sport and maybe LH has more than others because he tries more than others & that’s what makes him exciting. What do we want to watch a procession of cars going round in a line where they only over take if there’s like a 10 mile gap between them or do we want to see wheel to wheel racing. What ever else you think of LH in my opinion, along with Alonso, & maybe Go-By-Bashi he is the most exciting driver out there. A case in point for me was the Indian GP, with Lewis’s confidence & mood seemingly down at the moment he ended up in 7th on track by himself and didn’t appear to really be pushing & how boring was that race because he wasn’t up there fighting with other drivers, apart from the 1 incident with Massa.

  12. Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:44

    Are there any kind of stats on number of investigations per driver? It struck me as interesting that you mentioned not just penalties but all investigations. I’m curious to know how every driver stacks up in that realm to see who’s getting the most attention. Not because I think there’s a conspiracy (I think your assessment is fair that there’s no special vendetta against Hamilton), but because I think there could be some light shed on all the drivers behavior patterns.

  13. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:44

    I think Hamilton has been treated fairly. What really rubs me the wrong way is when people suggest Hamilton should be treated differently to everyone else simply because he is at the front end of the grid. If the penalties seem harsh, there is a reason for that – Hamilton clearly hasn’t learned from previous incidents.

  14. nmsi (@nmsi) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:47

    Well it always seems to me odd that when someone overtakes Hamilton, he quite rarely has contact, yet when he does overtaking the moves are either brilliant or they crash. It may be down to fact that he does more overtaking than is being overtaken but nevertheless…
    I am getting more and more feeling that modern F1 is going into direction DRS pass=good; all other passes=maybe; pass attempt with contact = bad and someone must pay for it.

  15. W-K (@w-k) said on 3rd November 2011, 12:49

    If Lewis does think that the stewards are against him most of the time, then probably the seeds were sown in 2008 with those two travesties of justice.

    And a few other idea’s for discussion,
    How do you break the tow of a slower (lap time) car which might be faster in a straight line, without weaving. Most of this year the McLarens and RBRs are way down on speed through the measuring points.
    Should a driver get penalised, or repremand for following team orders.
    Also should Lewis not feel agrieved that Schumacher wasn’t investigated a Monza this year.

    I must point out that Lewis is not my favourite driver, but do think that more decisions have gone against him, than for him.

    Monaco was one of the races where you could look at the two incidents and have different views entirely. Did Massa slam the door closed and therefore cause the crash and why didn’t Maldonado drive like Schumacher, and give way but survive and gain valuble points.

    Talking of Maldonado do we know why Lewis got a repremand at Spa?

    • Dave_F1 said on 3rd November 2011, 13:08

      I believe Lewis got the reprimand at Spa for the contact in the final corner where he ran into the side of Maldonardo & I think Williams also said that Lewis’ actions had cost Pastor his last lap.

      • Ragerod said on 3rd November 2011, 15:15

        Not true. The steward’s report gave the same time for both Maldonado’s penalty and Hamilton’s reprimand, implying they were both cited for the same incident.

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