Lauda: Hamilton penalty will harm F1

Monday, 08 September 2008 14:43

Former world champion Niki Lauda has blasted the Belgian Grand Prix stewards' decision to penalise Lewis Hamilton as a "stupid" verdict that will make fans turn away from the sport.

Hamilton won the Spa race on the road after a frantic late dice with Kimi Raikkonen, but was given a 25 second penalty for cutting the Bus Stop chicane during their battle - even though he immediately let the Ferrari back through.

Lauda, who won titles for both Ferrari and McLaren, admitted that the officials' actions left him baffled and frustrated.

"I do not understand this completely wrong decision," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"Everything was explained perfectly: Lewis had an advantage, but then he let him go by, then he simply out-braked him into the corner.

"There was no slipstreaming involved, nothing.

"Just think about it: If Lewis had stayed behind Kimi through the chicane, he would have passed him in front of the pits, because Lewis and the McLaren, at that time in the race in the wet, were so much quicker.

"So I do not understand this decision, and it's really bad for the sport because people watching will not watch any more because of this stupid decision."

The Austrian legend said that Hamilton's penalty made him start to believe suggestions that the authorities favoured Ferrari.

"In the past, there have always been rumours and stories – and I've always been completely against them because they've never been proven – that Ferrari, because of its past and history, was always against McLaren with the stewards and the FIA, who if there was a decision, were in favour of Ferrari," said Lauda.

"I've always said this is bulls**t, that this is a sport and you have to be neutral, but the decision yesterday makes me believe that everyone is watching Ferrari in a positive way and McLaren in a very negative way.

"What developed yesterday is the biggest mess the sport has ever done."

Lauda reckons that the events of Spa underline the need for permanent race stewards who attend every grand prix.

"I think the first thing that should happen is to try to train stewards of the meeting to understand the sport and the issues that drivers need to know," he said.

"If you change them all the time, then new people are coming in who don't seem to have a clue."

He believes the stewards misinterpreted Hamilton's actions and thought he had placed his McLaren advantageously when letting Raikkonen back through.

"They understood the rules, but they thought that the slipstream was the advantage and that Lewis did not lift enough," said Lauda.

"This is completely wrong: there was no slipstream involved.

"He tried to pass on the left but Kimi moved over, then he passed on the right because he braked later – without any slipstream.

"It's unbelievable how the best driver in yesterday's race makes no mistakes and only gets six points."

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