Did Lewis Hamilton gain a track advantage?

Belgian Grand Prix 2008

I’m a bit late to this one, since I’m currently sat watching the GP2 race from Monza on the SPEED channel and waiting for the start of the Italian Grand Prix, and if you managed to miss it to you can read all about it on the BBC News website.  I’m not going to moan about missing it just because SPEED showed it live after Fox had been showing the races time delayed for the previous 5 races, well maybe I’ll moan a bit.

Having watched replays and repeats of the event I think the penalty is very harsh, and Maclaren are right to appeal the ruling.  The issue is that the officials have followed the letter of the law regarding the racing advantage and not followed the spirit of Grand Prix by overlooking the incursion or penalising it lightly if the driver gives up the positions gained immediately and visibly after incident has occured.  Sure Lewis gained a big advantage by cutting the bus stop chicane, but he did then immediately let Raikkonen retake the lead on the straight and the telemetry recordings from his car support this claim.  So yes he deserves a warning, maybe a ten place penalty on his next start, but did he really deserve to be stripped of the win?  I think the answer to that is ‘no’.

Now you could claim this is the second time he has done this, having been involved in a similar incident at the French Grand Prix, but it is practically impossible to say that it was an intentional manouvere.  Formula One is a dangerous, unpredictable, high-speed sport and drivers racing at the limit are bound to over-cook it occaisionally and go too fast or too far.  In these situations if the driver is lucky there is run-off and they risk a penalty (like Lewis in this situation).  If the driver is unlucky then they crash and their race is over.  Was Lewis knowingly cheating?  I don’t think so (and this isn’t because I’m a rabid Hamilton fan because I’m not) because I think he was just racing at and occaisionally beyond the limit.  Should he face a penalty?  Yes, he should because he did gain an advantage.  Was the penalty given fair? No, and the decision should be revisited.

Now to watch a wet Italian Grand Prix.  Oh, and did anyone else notice that there hasn’t been much heard from Max Mosely recently?  Maybe he is tied up somewhere 😉

— update — update — update —

I’ve watched the clip a few more times now, and I hate to admit it but I think the stewards made the right call based on the evidence available.  Hamilton did allow Raikkonen to regain position but did not do so in a way that was visible and sustained.  His duck and weave straight back into an overtaking position was not “in the spirit of the sport” and although Charlie Whiting said it was “good enough” it wasn’t the kind of behaviour I’d expect from a sportsman at this level of competition.  I feel the penalty given was harsh, and should be appealed so that a more appropriate penalty can be applied.  More importantly the rules regarding this kind of incident need to be clarified so that teams and drivers know exactly what they can get away with without this kind of confusion.

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