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. Nice work, Keith in compiling the record here. But to be honest, I’m not sure where to go from here. It’s almost too comprehensive, but it’s a feast worth taking on.

    I’m going to skip the salad course though. Breaking down the data so see whether his calls are fair, you have to throw out the ones where he was purely the victim or it was a team foul, for clarity. And I’m only counting on-track fouls not pit lane limiter things and white-line fouls and other misdemeanors. Here, out of the 35 incidents, I’m left with:

    2007 – 1; 2008 -5; 2009- 3; 2010 – 4; 2011 – 12

    Thats 25 over the 5 years. Of these, Hamilton got 16 penalties and 3 reprimands.

    How many were actually controversial or showed a lack of precedent or basis? I count only 2: Belgium 2008; Monaco 2011 (Massa); (Reasonable people wil disagree about the Monaco ones, but it was exaclty like Massa’s foul in India. So there.)

    So in the end, I don’t think there is evidence that Hamilton has been treated unfairly. Although, in one case his penalty resulted in a brand new rule, applied ex-poste against him. However, I am not looking at whether him being investigated in the first place was fair. As we know lots of stuff goes uninvestigated or unnoticed by the stewards. That’s a vast project to take that on and probably not worth it in the end anyway,

    It is also interesting to note that, among these 35 incidents, another driver was penalized 10 times in the same incident. That goes to whether it actually took “two to tango” in the case, or how far off the mark was his judgment relative to his peers. Hard to make much of that without looking at other driver’s records, but it’s curious.

    Also, what do we learn about this Massa-problem here, which is held out as Exhibit A against Hamilton, and the basis of incredible hysterics. Looking at the “umpteen[]” times Massa and Hamilton collided, they share five entries all collisions. The results from those incidents are 2 penalties for Massa, 1 no-action, and 2 penalties to Hamilton. These incidents however also resulted in much irate jaw-boning, school-yard aggression in the paddock, and banging of shoes on the steward’s table by Massa. The stewards may not have it in for Hamilton, but Massa surely has something against him.

  2. Enigma (@enigma) said on 3rd November 2011, 15:28

    There were incidents where Hamilton was penalised but shouldn’t be, and there were incidents where he shouldn’t be penalised but was.

    But the fact is he’s been involved in way too many incidents and it’s hurting him badly. Lewis is easily one of the most talented drivers on the grid, but if he ever wants to win a championship again, he’s going to have to be a lot more careful and avoid incidents.

  3. 678ASE said on 3rd November 2011, 15:42

    Where is hamilton and kobayashi’s collison?

  4. bad_whippet (@bad_whippet) said on 3rd November 2011, 15:47

    Whilst not wholly indicative of the results (penalty or not), I would argue Lewis is probably involved in more incidents, simply because he’s more ‘involved’ – ie. he tends to be the one making the most overtakes etc.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know there are a few other drivers with a similar number of overtakes that haven’t been in as many incidents, so I’m not making excuses.

    One previous post mentioned his first season and that the ‘bad boy’ image was nurtured there and then and to some degree, I think that’s true. Regardless of what you might say about the stewards’ impartiality, I don’t think the constant media circus that surrounds Lewis helps. It’s a bit like the old adage, “if you keep telling a child they’re naughty, they’ll be naughty”. Keep telling the world Lewis is in a bad place, that he keeps making rash decisions etc., and soon everyone will think that.

    This isn’t a dig at Keith for putting the article up (in fact I’m amazed by the number of sensible posts!), but the last thing I’d say is this… maybe it’s time we let him get on with his life and stop scrutineering every aspect (http://www.pitpass.com/45125-Time-for-the-media-to-lay-off-Hamilton).

    I know he’s supposed to be one of the top 24 drivers in the world and the other 23 don’t seem to have the same problems… well, good for them, it must be great being so awesome. They are however, Lewis included, human…

    Here’s hoping for a smooth 2012 for him, because he sure as hell is one of the most entertaining drivers around.

    • Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 4th November 2011, 2:01

      Agreed, he tends to be involved in overtaking because he’s rarely at the front of the pack. HAM believes he should be in P1 at every lap and goes nuts to get there. Not that I mind, it’s great to see top drivers weaving their way through the field – remember Webbers P18 to P3 in China.

  5. Tinakori Road (@tinakori-road) said on 3rd November 2011, 16:08

    I remember Hamilton driving into the back of Alonso twice at the 2008 Bahrain Grand Prix, when Alonso was still driving for Renault . Hamilton damaged his nose and Alonso was out. Hamilton had a lame story about Alonso moving the same time that Hamilton did but it didn’t look that way on the video.
    http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2008/4/7608.html
    Oh, they also said Alonso ‘Brake checked him’ but that was mud that didn’t stick.
    http://www.autosport.com/subs/login.php?r=http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/66448&type=news&id=66448

  6. RBAlonso (@rbalonso) said on 3rd November 2011, 16:10

    @kieth-collantine What do you make of Hamilton weaving in spa 08, on the run to les combes?
    ————————————–
    I still think that Hamilton’s penalty was harsh in spa 08 but he should have lifted and not cut the bus stop to my mind. Anyway that is water under the bridge. As for the article as a whole I think it is very fair and informative. Hamilton is a controversial character and most of his penalties are deserved but his accidents this year seem to come from him being out of position or impatience. He never recover from the last five races of 2010 where he watxhed the championship needlessly slip away. As a result his mind-set is all wrong this year. but those last five mistakes must have killed the guys confidence.

  7. Fixy (@fixy) said on 3rd November 2011, 16:19

    The first time I remember Hamilton getting a penalty for an incident is Melbourne 2009, and probably I assisted to the penalties he was given in 2008 but I found he had simply made a mistake, unlike in Melbourne the following year. I remember everyone in Italy was angry for the way the stewards handled the situation in Valencia in 2010, especially after the horrible (for Ferrari) Silverstone race, and perhaps from that point I saw Hamilton as someone who is always on the limit, of his car and also of the rules.
    2011 has been a bad year for him, but the only time I was really angry with him was after Singapore. It wasn’t the only time he was at fault, but the stewards have been good at remaining objective and penalising him when he needed to, or penalising the other driver (India) when he was faultless.

  8. James (@jamesf1) said on 3rd November 2011, 17:11

    I’m sure other drivers have had as many incidents as Lewis in the same time span, we just cant recall them so well. How many penalties have Sutil and Kovalainen had? They stated in the same season as Hamilton. Strictly speaking, 2007 was Vettel’s rookie season too. It’ll be interesting to compile that data.

  9. maxthecat said on 3rd November 2011, 17:17

    Oh dear, how about an article about how lenient other drivers have been treated? You know, just so someone can finally accuse you of impartial journalism.

  10. Ian Mackay said on 3rd November 2011, 17:18

    I think that makes about a dozen collisions, half this year, which, between 2007 and 2010 is not excessive.
    Recently the stewards have been harsh in penalising infractions generally, to the point of unfairness but these penalties may be a way of offsetting the predictability arising from metronomic pitstops and routine reliability of the front runners.
    Hamilton takes chances, this makes watching him compelling; today’s error of judgement is tomorrow’s masterful pass.
    Rosberg is a fast qualifier but seems to avoid incident with the corollary being, he rarely outperforms his expected position.
    In 2007 Hamilton could race Alonso with little pressure and best him on countback and qualifying (though head to head it was 10-7 to Alonso in the races), whilst the pressure of expectation, now that Hamilton is one of the fastest of all time means that the quiet Button, who has experienced defeat and failure, is possibly rattling him, through racecraft if not outright speed. I don’t think that Button is any better than Alonso, it just seems that 2011 is to Hamilton what 2007 is to Alonso. Alonso took out his frustration out of the car, Hamilton’s frustration has been manifest in the cockpit.
    I think Hamilton will win one race yet and be WDC in 2012 if the McLaren is competitive.

    • JACKBRABHAMFAN said on 3rd November 2011, 20:27

      You are right about the last line!

      Sam Micheal will be starting off as racing director in Abu Dhabi. I think this is Uncle Ron’s way of bringing back the discipline to Maclaren and pulling in Whitmarsh.

  11. judo chop (@judo-chop) said on 3rd November 2011, 17:38

    This article exhibits the problem with most critical coverage of Hamilton in that it looks at him in isolation. It would be more fair if it looked at Hamilton’s treatment – by the F1 media and F1 authorities – in comparison to the treatment given to other drivers i.e. Alonso’s behaviour over the last five years or Schumacher’s driving this season. In specific incidents, such as the ridiculous “weaving” furore in Malaysia 2010, an easy comparison could had been made with all close racing down the home straight using race footage from a single camera.

    Apart from that the anti-Hamilton bandwagon is so large that hardly anyone in the F1 circus has the guts say anything that contradicts it. When two well experienced former F1 drivers can claim a driver has the right to turn into another, knowingly as well as unknowningly, because he’s following the “racing line” – I thought the only lines that have an official standing are the twowhite lines down each side of the track – then you know F1′s gone doolaly.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd November 2011, 17:48

      @judo-chop I’ve already replied to similar comments and I’m not going to repeat myself.

      But to take the ‘weaving’ example from Malaysia, I don’t think there’s any room for doubt here. Hamilton clearly changed lines twice while defending from Petrov in 2010, he was given a clear warning not to do it, he did it again with Alonso in 2011, and he got a penalty.

      • I can’t stand that whole weaving thing.

        We are suppose to be an intelligent species, watching a very technologically advanced sport, why cant we distinguish between blocking the progress of another car, and moving to break a tow?

        Clearly Hamilton was not blocking Petrovs progress by moving side to side, It just looked more dramatic because Petrov was trying to stay in Hamiltons wake.

        It’s fair enough that Hamilton got punished the following year because it had been highlighted/clarified already, but i have a problem with the rule itself.

        What constitutes weaving/blocking? how many cars length’s has there to be between 2 cars before a car can move side to side without being punished (ie. to get heat into the tires, or somthing) Where is the line drawn? Do they draw the line depending on whose involved?

        A little bit of common sense and this would never have been an issue in Malaysia

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd November 2011, 20:30

          I don’t think there’s ever been any ambiguity about this. Hamilton said in 2010 he was weaving to deprive Petrov of the tow, it was clear from the stewards’ response that wasn’t considered satisfactory, and so it proved when he did the same thing again in 2011.

      • judo chop (@judo-chop) said on 3rd November 2011, 20:11

        I have to disagree with your claim that there’s no room for doubt. The anti-weaving ruling was/is ill thought. Before the Hamilton/Petrov incident the ruling – I suppose you know the exact ruling – regarding a move across a car attemping an overtake was clear – one move across allowed. Changing lines to move away from a following car is in no way the same, proof of which is that the race stewards didn’t penalized him straight away under the then existing rules. The absurd thing is that most drivers in that situation, since they have the speed to catch the car in front, would usually love a car in front to move out of the way. But because it’s Hamilton – instead of being praised as clever defensive driving – it’s condemned despite being in no way dangerous, whinged about by pundits – who never previously said a peep about “breaking the tow” – as though cars in front are obliged to provide slipstreams for rivals and banned by reactionary stewards. With the effect now that the FIA expects drivers to sit tight while cars blow pass – DRS wide open as well. To add to which the anti-weave ruling is in no way clear regarding drivers changing line to gain better entry to a corner nor how close must be to be deemed impeding a competitor. All this is apart from the stewards inconsistent application of their new rule.

  12. f1geordie (@f1geordie) said on 3rd November 2011, 17:50

    As far as I can see, way less than half of these incidents have been caused by Hamilton and affected another driver’s race. I also think there is a strong relationship between overtakes and incidents. If we compared overtakes with incidents for drivers, Hamilton would be at the top. Hamilton’s exciting driving introduced me to F1 and made me love it, and if more exciting driving induces a few more incidents, so be it. We don’t want boring drivers.

  13. moarpheus (@moarpheus) said on 3rd November 2011, 18:37

    Hamilton is cool. End of story

  14. Rhys Coles (@lightmas) said on 3rd November 2011, 19:32

    I dont know how many stewards there are in F1 and if there are different ones each weekend, but if they do change its a little silly to suggest all of them have something against Lewis….

    Also, in 2008 for example people were calling for having an ex-driver steward to make things fairer, but in the case of Hamilton the application of penalties has been the same in terms of consistency.

    There is no doubt Hamilton gets involved in more incidents than any other driver, regardless of weather he gets a penalty or not, so more incidents equals more penalties. There have been a few dodgy ones but havent most drivers got the odd unfair penalty? Also for example in Valencia 2010 he was VERY lucky to get away with it (in terms of the final result).

  15. AlonsoWDC (@alonsowdc) said on 3rd November 2011, 19:42

    I get the impression, especially after this year, that Hamilton brings it on himself sometimes.

    But he pretty much tries to be the story every weekend. He could lighten up some and get on with it.

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