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?

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  1. tobinen (@tobinen) said on 4th November 2011, 11:55

    Good article, Keith.

  2. badger (@badger) said on 4th November 2011, 12:07

    Great article, is there any plans for similar ones for other drivers?

  3. ed24f1 (@ed24f1) said on 4th November 2011, 14:24

    One other incident that you missed, but maybe wasn’t investigated, was Monza 2008.

    That day, Hamilton was quite dangerous, sending Glock onto the grass at Curva Grande and moving into Webber in the braking area into the first chicane.

    He claimed that his mirrors were fogged, but that seems like a very poor excuse to me, as it was the same for everyone, and no-one else was pulling off dirty moves like that.

    Overall, I don’t think Hamilton has been unfairly penalised in his career. In fact, you could say he’s been quite lucky in many respects, such as Malaysia and Europe in 2010, and Belgium and Japan this year.

  4. jn my view the main problem is lack of clear rules for the stewards to work to

    to much opinion rather than applying regulations

    but I used to watch F1 back in the days when the drivers were allowed to race

  5. bobbyb (@bobbyb) said on 4th November 2011, 16:57

    It would be interesting to see other drivers statistics with regards to on-track infringements, collisions and resulting penalties over a season.
    Taking a couple of drivers as an example would put this whole question into context with Lewis’s data, and highlight the stewards questionable consistency.
    As Rubens Barrichello stated recently there is just as much incidents that occur toward the back of the field that doesn’t even get noticed or appear not to get noticed.
    My question is what are all the stewards doing throughout the races, surely they should be covering the whole track and not just focussing on what happens up front.

  6. MooseVenom said on 4th November 2011, 17:35

    I still think Massa intentionally turned down into Lewis in Monaco. What’s more, I believe that Massa uses Lewis’ reputation with the stewards against him. He knew he and Hamilton would make contact in India last week, but assumed he would be given the benefit of the doubt, and Hamilton penalized. I cheered loudly when the reverse happened.

    And no, I’m not a big Lewis Hamilton fan.

  7. AndrewMansell (@andrewmansell) said on 4th November 2011, 17:46

    Hamilton is a winning or nothing driver, it’s like a lot less talented senna.

  8. Taypicala (@taypicala) said on 4th November 2011, 18:25

    A great article, Keith!

    I might have missed it in the many comments so far, but I thought the stewards did look (although not sure) into the Massa-Hamilton incident in the last corner of the British GP this year, but took no action.

  9. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 4th November 2011, 19:48

    Brave article! A necessary one, however.

    I’m also glad you put this article up inbetween races, hopefully some intelligent conversation has arisen.

    I’ve joined a little late, so I won’t join in. I also don’t think there is a great deal to discuss. Some more justification from the stewards is all I ask. I don’t think there us any bias for or against Hamilton anywhere, at any time.

  10. Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 4th November 2011, 22:33

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

    Ehm, yes it does. At least at the end of 2008 when Donnelly was obviously intent on keeping Massa in the race. Not just that penalty in Belgium, but also that penalty in Fuji was simply insane. A drive through for outbraking yourself when half the field did the same? Come on. Kovalainen actually went off track AND collided with Raikkonen, yet he got no penalty whatsoever.

    The Canada penalty seemed harsh too. As I remember, Rosberg was given only a 5 place grid drop because Donnelly claimed that Hamilton was responsible for Rosberg running into him too (!?!)

    It’s also quite rare that they hand a penalty when a driver has already failed to finish the race due to the incident.

    This season it really has gotten insane though. He gets penalties for everything.

    The weaving? He moved at worst a meter. At the start of the straight! It’s not like there is a racing line there to follow. You see drivers move all over the track on the straights, but no one ever gets a penalty for that (including a reprimands). Just because they once gave Hamilton a flag for something “similar” now they feel he must be penalised. The move wasn’t even close to the same thing though. He wasn’t flagged for blocking or unfair defending, but for unsportshmanship like driving because it ridiculed Petrov. He never blocked Petrov with it though. Neither was Alonso blocked.

    At least half of the incidents he got a penalty for the penalty was nonsense. Especially if you compare it to the non-penalties that are given to other people driving into him (eg Webber in Singapore and Button twice in Canada)

    The only time I remember Webber getting a penalty was when he tried to ram Barrichello off the road just after the start. Webber recovered well by winning that race though. I don’t recall Button ever getting a penalty for any of the crashes he caused.

    I have to say it’s good to see some sense coming into the stewards though. It was a fair of them to penalise Massa for blatantly abusing the oversensitive situation that (the stewards) had put Hamilton in.

    It’s probably just a combination of things though. Hamilton does a lot of overtaking and the rules are insanely on the side of the defending party.

    Look at the Monaco incidents. Hamilton gets penalised for 2 incidents when the race showed that if the defender doesn’t just close the door on (ie ram into) his opponent there was no need for an accident.

    If the defender simply decides to turn in, he actually is guaranteed that the penalty goes to the overtaker. Apart from when they make it too obvious like Massa did in the last race.

    The gentleman rule used to be that if the following driver had a front wheel past the rear wheel of his opponent he “had” the corner. When people stopped dying in crashes (and the attitude change that Senna and Schumachers ruthless driving brought on), this went into disuse.

    Nowadays they just ram into each other. Often simply citing that they “didn’t see” the opponent is enough to appease the stewards. Well maybe you shouldn’t be racing then or put actually working mirrors on the car so you don’t have to lean out to actually see something!

    BTW that incident in Hungary with Raikkonen was Vettel’s own fault. Vettel tried to go as the third one through a corner and he did end up paying the price. He had to drop out with a suspension failure caused in that incident.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 4th November 2011, 23:40

      The Canada penalty seemed harsh too. As I remember, Rosberg was given only a 5 place grid drop because Donnelly claimed that Hamilton was responsible for Rosberg running into him too (!?!)

      No, Rosberg got 10 places as well.

    • lewymp4 (@lewymp4) said on 5th November 2011, 19:22

      At the 2008 Belgian GP, Alan Donnelly’s role may have played a major part in the stewards decision,and Charlie Whiting’s actions was highly questionable. The stewards at the time were being led by Donnelly, who then was Max Mosley’s race representative.
      Why did Whiting in real time tell, and assured the Mclaren pitwall twice, that Lewis had driven within the rules, only then later…later advising the stewards to study Lewis’s driving.

  11. UKFan (@) said on 5th November 2011, 1:44

    I think we all comprehend Keith point of view, I do belive that Hamilton was harmed by the stewards many times mostly in 2007 and 2008 but in my opinion theres always much more to tell about penaltys, and in the end we dont discuss some theories because they lack tangible facts, I think Hamilton was being harmed by Mclarens mistakes in 07 and 08 it was nothing personal like it in 2010 and in this season. About 2007 and 2008 the way both champs ended in Brazil was very eventfull and I dont blame people for thinking that those champs may have been a little fixed by FIA. Many theorys may submerge. One theory that I have is that FIA didnt disclose enough information about radio feeds rule infrigement and other minor details and neither about the big infrigements and suspicious “spygates” “crash fixes” Glocks help” in order not to stain the sport and show all FIA rules weaknesses. One weakness in my opinion was the pit under safety car rules that I believe lead to many victories in 08, whether those situations were real or staged we might never know, finally I must stand against Mclaren not Hamilton.

  12. Oliver said on 8th November 2011, 2:28

    I remember all these incidents, but unlike you say, they are not as clear cut in deserving penalties.

    Hamilton almost forced Kimi off track, but Heikki actually forced Kimi off.

    I remember Coulthard pulling a move so impossible, it was bothering on the suicidal and almost came close to decapitating Wurz, no penalty.

    Impeding penalty, Hamilton stayed behind Heikki so they don’t both block the track.

    How can someone hitting Hamilton qualify as a Hamilton problem? If Kubica or anyone else hit Hamilton, that is a Kubica or anyone else’s problem and don’t belong here.

    Most of these incidents don’t even qualify to be on here.

    Most of the penalties he received were not even in the rules book. Already ahead of a driver beflre cutting the chicane is different from cutting the chicane to get ahead.

    Until Spa, who ever said you had to wait 2 corners before attempting to overtake after giving a position back?

    The multiple move rule came about because of sudden movements in the braking zone and safety. Suddenly it became an issue at the start of the straight. Breaking of a tow, and lead vs lag factor. When did the rules book say a driver can not attempt to break a tow? Or when did it say you can’t move aside to give the other driver enough room to pass?

    Spygate: Who could Hamilton have known in F1 circles that he could have sourced information from?

    Hamilton cuts chicane in qualifying????? Seriously does that even warrant a visit to the stewards? Isn’t that just a clearcut mistake similar to driving wide?

    Ariving late for a press conference!!!!!
    This one is so unforgivable. They should revoke his super licence and be banned from any form of racing. How dangerous. He and his Mclaren minders, who of course plan his schedule, should be denied entry to the pits for life

    Now if Mclaren tell Hamilton to stop the car, something Ferrari and other teams have told their drivers at some point, why should that be Hamilton’s problem or fault.
    Mclaren have had a hand in many of his stewards visits.
    A team giving a driver the wrong tyres isn’t the driver’s issue but a team issue.
    Some of those fines are for the team’s actions and not for the driver.

    When was late braking and locking of brakes ever punished? He didn’t even hit Kimi at Fuji, ok you may argue that Kimi avoided turning into the corner, but do we apply penalties for preventing drivers from turning in when they want to?
    This issue was debated in here in the past, he only got the penalty retroactively because Massa had ploughed into him so, Mosley and his cronies decided to make it 50 – 50.
    The fact remains, Hamilton has got punished for the most fickle of reasons.

    Your conclusion…. The evidence……ah but if something has been done, we can always look for was to justify it being the right decision.
    You can’t draw a conclusion from words, you have to go through the evidence. And I remember what your articles about some of these earlier incidents were, but it seems with time we accept more the outcome as facts, even when we had once questioned the rationale.

    • lewymp4 (@lewymp4) said on 9th November 2011, 16:44

      Absolutely brilliant Oliver, and…..Well Said!

    • kenneth Ntulume said on 4th December 2011, 10:44

      Oliver, no one with pen and paper, oooops keyboard would have put it better…….
      Denying the obvious fact that Hamilton has been treated like other drivers is like, Blatter saying….Ra…. is not a problem in football

  13. I appreciate your piece of work, thankyou for all the informative blog posts.

  14. bill major said on 13th May 2012, 21:39

    Interesting analysis, perhaps it is a 50/50? although a Hamilton fan [mainly thanks to my wife's enthusiasm over the past 4 year, i had stopped viewing after Murray Walker retired] I can see that Hamilton is one of the more exciting drivers, takes more risks,can sometimes risk himself and others. What do you make of this wekend’s pantomime? Viewed from a partisan angle I might say that Hamilton has been making a beeline for the championship this year, consistently finishing in the top three, in 3rd place in the ratings (bearing in mind that the first place has not been falling weekly into Vettel’s lap as last year]. Anyone with an “interest” or “enthusiasm” for Vettel and “negative ” feelings towards Hamilton, might be inclined to penalise him to the max for circumstances beyond Hamiltons control such as the Saturday incident. However Hamilton consistent as ever can push himself from 25th [or 95th if you like] and end up in the top 10. I have the feeling that the stewards [and others] may feel the only way to stop him is to put a stake in his heart. As for the “is it because I is black”? Surely an elite of white English, Hispanic, and Latin american millionaires would have no feelings of racism? Heaven forbid.

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