Monday, September 8, 2008

Hamilton was robbed, but Massa will win

Personally I think Hamilton was robbed of his trilling victory at Spa. He muscled the defending World Champion seemingly passing him at will in varying conditions. The fact that the stewards have interjected themselves unnecessarily will only flair up charges of FIA-Ferrari bias or claims that there is a manipulation of the championship as Hamilton was set to run away with the title. Instead of an 8 point lead for Hamilton, it has now been widdled down to 2 points with the next race on Ferrari home soil in Monza, Italy. Even though McLaren seem to have a strong case to appeal in that Hamilton gave the position back and they have provided data that Hamilton was 6 km/h slower than Raikkonen as they crossed the start/finish line, it will be for nothing and Massa will keep his win and here is why.

This incident reminds me of a lesser known circumstance from the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix in which Renault's Fernando Alonso was overtaking then Red Bull's Christian Klien. After cutting the last chicane at the Suzuka Circuit, Alonso allowed Klien back passed on the main straight, and re-passed Klien. However, it was later determined by the stewards that Alonso gained an advantage and he had to allow Klien past again. Alonso later re-passed Klien, but lost valuable time.

Here at Spa it is quite similar, just that the stakes are higher. Obviously given it was the end of the race, stewards could not order Hamilton to let Kimi through and could not issue an on-track penalty. However, the question will boil down to a simple issue. Did Hamilton gain an advantage? This is where it is a strictly judgement call and no objective position can be made. The fact that the position was relinquished should be good enough as that is what is asked for by the stewards. I do not think he gained an advantage and given that Raikkonen crashed out moments later, the issue should not even have been raised. Moreover, the fact that Massa got to keep his win at Valencia only adds fuel to the fire, as there are many that say why wasn't Massa stripped of his win?

At the end of the day, I have seen worst judgement calls. Coincidentally, at the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso was penalized for "blocking" Felipe Massa in qualifying. This call was almost criminal and again stirred up the calls that this was more FIA-Ferrari bias. Nevertheless in this case, they have precedence for penalizing Hamilton and will probably follow that precedence set at Suzuka in 2005; but hey we are talking about the FIA, and their record of making arbitrary decisions will still make waiting for a decision an interesting back story to the rest of the championship.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I share your opinion that the penalty will stand. I disagree that it is unjust though.

I will admit that I was surprised when I heard about the revised results after the race. Having re-watched footage on YouTube, I think it is fairly obvious, even to the untrained eye, that Hamilton did indeed gain an advantage. He could have made giving back his position more obvious but chose not to. The fact that his team asked for official clarification (which cannot be given) signals that McLaren too shared this opinion or at least had sufficient doubt.

Had the race lasted longer, Hamilton would have gotten a drive-through penalty. He got one afterwards. You cannot appeal against those, so McLaren has no case whatsoever. Besides, if even the slightest advantage can be proven (or rather: if McLaren cannot prove no advantage), Raikkonen would not have been overtaken THERE. And who knows, he may not have crashed in desperation? Again making a case for the penalty, eventhough Raikkonen did not benefit from this.

The irony of course is that there was no need for Hamilton to do what he did, he was clearly going to easily overtake Raikkonen. Not where he did, but definitely in that new lap.

I can definitely imagine British fans being pissed off, but... I think this is yet another case of a harsh but just penalty for a minor case of bad judgement.


Pete DaSilva said...

Thanks for your comments. Nevertheless, Hamilton did give back the position as did Alonso in 2005. In my opinion in both instances that should have been enough as that is what is required. Should the driver in addition to giving back the position give himself an arbitary time penalty by falling further back? I don't think so. Also, I do not think Hamilton would be issued drive through, but asked to give the position back. If he did not then a drive through or even black flag would have probably happened.