McLaren lawyer: appeal is admissible
|By Jonathan Noble
||Monday, September 22nd 2008, 12:10 GMT
Discussions about whether McLaren's appeal into Lewis Hamilton's Belgian Grand Prix penalty is admissible have dominated early proceedings in the FIA International Court of Appeal hearing in Paris this morning.
Although Lewis Hamilton has turned up as the team's star witness in McLaren's bid to overturn the 25-second penalty that he was handed for gaining, what the stewards claimed, was an unfair advantage by cutting a chicane, the young Briton has yet to speak.
Instead, the first two hours of discussions were dominated by debate among lawyers about whether the appeal is admissible in the first place.
Under FIA regulations, drive-through penalties are not subject to appeal. However, McLaren's barrister Mark Phillips QC has argued that this case can be appealed because the discussion is about the 25-second time penalty only.
It was highlighted that at last season's Japanese Grand Prix, an appeal was heard about whether or not Vitantonio Liuzzi should have been handed a 25-second time penalty for passing Adrian Sutil under yellow caution flags. That punishment was in lieu of a drive-through penalty that is normally handed down for such offences.
With the argument about the state of the appeal having taken place in front of the five appointed judges - Xavier Conesa (Spain), Philippe Narmino (Monaco), Erich Sedelmayer (Austria), Harry Duijm (Netherlands) and Thierry Julliard (Switzerland) - discussion about the actual incident itself is expected to dominate proceedings after lunch.
Phillips has already argued that Hamilton gained no advantage from overtaking Raikkonen where he did.
"Millions of viewers watched Lewis Hamilton take the chequered flag at Spa on September 7," he said in his opening address. "Millions of viewers has seen Lewis Hamilton as the quickest man on the circuit at the moment the rain started to fall.
"At that moment it became a question of when, and not if, he would drive past Kimi Raikkonen. In the wet Kimi Raikkonen was utterly defenceless. The world at large saw Lewis Hamilton on the podium taking the trophy, and then saw the post-race press conference.
"After about two hours the stewards decided to add 25 seconds to Lewis Hamilton's race time, so relegating him from first to third. The stewards say Lewis Hamilton cut a chicane and so gained an advantage.
"The evidence will show Lewis Hamilton gave the advantage back to Kimi Raikkonen. When they crossed the line, Hamilton was 6.7 kilometres per hour slower, and at one stage seven metres behind.
"If he had stayed behind Raikkonen through the corner and down the straight, he would have passed him anyway into turn one. But Lewis Hamilton had no other choice but to take an escape route, a decision he made at the last second through that chicane.
"The suggestion he could have braked and slowed down is simply wrong. If Kimi Raikkonen had not forced him off the track he would have passed him down the straight."
The court was also played a radio clip of the conversation between McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan and race director Charlie Whiting at the time of the incident, which cited a preliminary approval for Hamilton giving up on his advantage.
The radio transcript stated:
Ryan: 'Do you believe that was okay? He gave the position back.'
Whiting: 'I believe it was. Yes.'
Ryan: 'You believe it was okay.'
Whiting: 'I believe it was okay.'
Hamilton is set to take to the witness stand after lunch to provide his version of events.