Drivers: Hamilton penalty didn't fit crime

Thursday, 11 September 2008 17:45

Several of Lewis Hamilton’s fellow drivers believe the Briton did gain a clear advantage by cutting a chicane at last week’s Belgian Grand Prix, although they agree that his demotion to third place was too severe.

With the controversy over the stewards’ decision to strip Hamilton of race victory still raging as the season moves onto Monza, the drivers appearing in Thursday’s press conference were naturally asked about their views on the incident.

Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais reckons the retrospective time penalty imposed on the McLaren driver was harsh, but nevertheless believes stewards were correct to issue some sort of punishment.

“I think the rules are very clear,” Bourdais said.

“Maybe the penalty was a bit hard, but I think he's made the same mistake [cutting chicanes] twice: he's done it in Magny-Cours and he's done it again in Spa.

“I don't really understand why there's been such a mess around it.

“There's a rule book and everybody has to obey the same thing.

“The penalty is really rough but in the end it's up to you to give the position back or not. Pretty straightforward.”

The Frenchman added that Hamilton had left himself exposed to the possibility of a stewards’ investigation.

“You have to be responsible for what you decide to do, and in this particular case, if you do gain an advantage like I said, you just give it back and make sure that you don't expose yourself to penalties,” he said.

“I think it's the easiest way to handle it.”

While McLaren data proved that Hamilton slowed to allow Ferrari rival Kimi Raikkonen to re-pass him on rejoining the track, it is believed the stewards felt his track cutting still gained him an advantage as he almost immediately overtook the Finn again.

Nico Rosberg agrees that Hamilton would not have been right on the gearbox of the Ferrari had he gone around the Bus Stop as normal – although he too feels the penalty was out of proportion with how the race’s final two laps played out.

“I definitely agree [with my colleagues], because he did get an advantage, because he wouldn't have been that close behind Kimi had he not cut the chicane,” the Williams driver said.

“But then again, I also think the penalty was a bit harsh as that did not have such a big effect on the actual race result in the end.”

Toyota’s Jarno Trulli added: “The penalty was quite big but I'm not a steward and I cannot decide what kind of penalty should be given.

“But on the other hand, it was very clear that he got an advantage out of it, so that's where it is.  The rules are very clear.

“If you cut the chicane and you get an advantage, you just have to drop back and give back the position and in Lewis's case he shouldn't have attacked straight away at the next corner; that was it.”

Felipe Massa, the man who benefited most from Hamilton’s demotion as he inherited the race victory, claimed earlier in the week that his title rival had been “too optimistic” and said he had not changed his view on Thursday.

“To be honest, I've given my ideas on this many times about what happened," Massa said. 

“What's happened is that he took an advantage by cutting the chicane.

“You can ask other drivers how many overtaking manoeuvres you see there: no overtaking.

“Going from the last corner to the first corner is such a small straight, so he took an advantage, that's clear, that's my opinion, so it doesn't change.”

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