Mon 8 Sep 2008
I think I may be in a minority of 1 on this!
There’s no hiding the fact that I don’t really like Lewis Hamilton, but that doesn’t really enter into the equation as far as I’m concerned.
Having read through comments on other sites, I think the general masses are getting a few things confused here which I’ll aim to clear up.
Firstly, I’ve read a few people saying that even if Hamilton has broken any rules it doesn’t matter as Kimi later crashed out. This is utter nonsense and I think most F1 fans would agree - if someone has broken a rule then anything else which happened either as a consequence or not doesn’t really matter.
Secondly, others are complaining that as a result of this Massa has ended up winning a race he didn’t deserve to win. Again, I think most would agree that this is a fact, but that there’s nothing much can be done about it - if the leader is penalised then it’s unavoidable that everyone else moves up a spot.
Thirdly, and this is the important point as far as I’m concerned, the general consensus is that if someone overtakes having taken a shortcut then they have to yield the position again straight away. I’m not so sure that’s the rule though - I think at some point that has been reported as a “simplified version” but that the actual rule states no advantage must be gained by running off the course.
I feel this is what has caught Lewis out in this case, and the reason for the steward’s punishment.
There’s no denying Lewis was catching Kimi at this late stage in the race, and it was quite possibly only a matter of time before he managed to get past him. Had Kimi retained his lead and Hamilton been trying to pass him when the rain was much heavier then who knows what would have happened though.
My view, and it’s only my view, is that Hamilton was a little way behind Kimi prior to the chicane. He then tried to outbrake him round the outside, and at this point he edged ahead, but Kimi had the inside line and ultimately was ahead after the first right hand corner of the chicane. This meant he was legitimately allowed to place his car anywhere on the track so he held the racing line, pulling over to the inside of the next left hander which I’m sure any driver would have done. Some say he should have left room up the inside for Lewis but that would have been tantamount to simply allowing Hamilton overtake so I don’t see how that stands up personally.
Hamilton claims that by taking this line, Kimi forced him off the track and that rather than run over the kerbs and astroturf (which may have caused him to spin or lose time) he decided to take to the escape road. In my opinion, Kimi didn’t force Lewis off the road as I think Lewis could have braked a little to effectively fall in behind the Ferrari. This would have lost him time and I can understand why the racer in him probably didn’t even contemplate this action, but to say there was no other option but for him to take to the escape road is simply wrong in my opinion.
Having come out of the escape road ahead, Hamilton was told by his team that he had to give the position back. Noone knows exactly what was said but either due to his own instincts or due to what the team said, Lewis tried to give the place back by losing out as little as possible. Again this is somewhat understandable but I think was his downfall.
Depending on the actual wording of the rules, if giving the place back was all he had to do then I don’t think he would have received a penalty given he did just that. However, if he is not meant to have gained an advantage through the chicane then things are not so clear.
Unfortunately so far the stewards have not made anything very much public regarding their decision, but I am assuming they took the whole chicane as one move. In other words at the end of the chicane Lewis, having gone off the track, should have been no closer to Kimi than when he went into it.
Anyone who watches F1 will know that overtaking can be incredibly difficult as the fancy wings etc of the car in front creates a lot of disturbance in it’s wake which means the wings of the following car can’t operate as effectively as it would in clean air. There is however a point where it is benefical to be close behind, ie in his slipstream, but it’s getting to that point which is the hard bit and is generally achieved under braking for a corner when aerodynamics are a little less important.
It could be argued that if Hamilton was X distance behind Kimi coming up the straight prior to the chicane, then he should have been that same distance behind him after letting him retake the lead othwerwise he has gained an advantage, albeit not a place. This is what I think has warranted the penalty.
It seems pretty clear to me that once Kimi takes the lead after the chicane, Lewis is much closer than he had been before - effectively he was well in Kimi’s slipstream thereby allowing him an excellent run down to the first corner.
McLaren’s defence seems to be based on the fact that Lewis was travelling at 6kmh slower than Kimi as they crossed the start/finish line which they say shows that he had done all he had to do in relinquishing the place to the Ferrari driver. I’m not sure if this is all the evidence they have to offer, but if it is then I can’t see their appeal being successful mainly because they had provided this information to the stewards on Sunday and it obviously didn’t change their minds.
Will McLaren actually appeal? I don’t think I’d advise it given that in the past additional penalties have been added where it has been unsuccessful, and it may be that once they have given it further thought they will decide not to pursue matters. They already seem to have the public’s support on the matter so perhaps that is a victory of sorts.
While I can understand why the penalty was given, I also sympathise with those who don’t think it was handled very well. I agree that I want to see the true race winner on the podium and that in an ideal world any investigations would take place prior to the podium celebrations and press conferences.
This is obviously not always possible so perhaps all podiums should be scrapped or delayed if any of the top 3 drivers are under investigation by the time the race ends?
I seem to recall other instances in the past where cars have failed scrutineering well into the night and results were changed even at that late stage. While I think it’s hard to take, I also don’t think rule breakers should be “let off” simply because their offences are found late in the day.
This story is going to run and run, with several big F1 fans claiming they are close to giving up on the sport while others see this as further evidence that the FIA and their stewards do everything in their power to help Ferrari to the titles year after year.
While I do sometimes feel this way, at the moment I feel that it’s not as biased as it perhaps appears - perhaps McLaren and their drivers simply break more rules than Ferrari!