Cleared, but Lewis suffers F1 road rage

JONATHAN McEVOY reports from Shanghai

Last updated at 22:23 05 October 2007

Lewis Hamilton will drive for the Formula One

world championship in Shanghai tomorrow after

surviving trial by YouTube.

The British rookie was a relieved man last night

when a day of worry and recrimination ended

with him being cleared of dangerous driving at

last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton

The upshot is that he starts tomorrow's race in China,

the penultimate round of the season, with his

12-point lead over embittered McLaren teammate

Fernando Alonso still intact. If he scores a

point more than the Spaniard, he becomes the

youngest champion in history.

Hamilton was handed the

good news just past 8pm local

time, more than two hours

after he sat down with the

stewards to defend himself

against accusations that he

drove illegally behind the

safety car in Fuji.

'I'm very happy,' said

Hamilton as he left the track.

'Now I can focus on the race.

I'm relaxed and confident.'

The 22-year-old was accused by Toro

Rosso of causing their driver,

Sebastian Vettel, to crash into

Red Bull's Mark Webber in

appalling conditions by slowing

down dramatically around the

final corner of lap 46. They

provided the YouTube evidence,

filmed by a Japanese fan, to

support their case.

Both drivers complained on

Thursday that the Hertfordshire

racer was erratic, though he

insisted he was merely hitting his

brakes to keep them hot.

However, the three stewards —

under the chairmanship of

English lawyer Tony

Scott-Andrews — took the view

that the track was much more

treacherous than on any other

occasion the safety car has been

deployed that it would be unfair

to penalise anyone.

It meant that Vettel, who was

originally told he would be sent

back 10 places on the grid for

Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix,

had his punishment waived. He

was instead reprimanded for

shunting into the back of

Australian Webber.

It was a dramatic day in the

oversized Shanghai paddock, with

Hamilton hinting he was the

victim of a political game waged

by the FIA.

He even toyed with the notion of

quitting the sport.

Speaking just before seeing the

stewards, he said: 'There have

been some real strange situations

this year where I'm made to look

the bad person and, by the looks

of it, this weekend I'll be given a


'If this is the way it's going to keep

going, it's not somewhere I really

want to be.

'I had a good weekend in Japan. I

didn't put a foot wrong, I didn't do

anything to put anyone else in


'I've come away to China and all

of a sudden I'm going to be

punished for something. I just

think it's a real shame for the


'Formula One's supposed to be

about hard, fair competition. That's what I've tried to do this

year — just be fair.

'People are trying to put blame on

me that Mark and Sebastian

crashed. I was well out of the way.

I wasn't driving an abnormal race;

I was doing the same the whole

race. There was more grip on that


'I've got to maintain my gap

behind the pace car and they've

got to maintain their gap behind

me. It's not my job to look after

the people behind me.

'I did the best job in an extremely

tough situation.

'I couldn't see anything out of my

visor because there was water

inside and my mirrors were all

fogged up.'

As it turned out, the stewards'

decision was entirely fair. They

were presented with new evidence

worth investigation, examined it

and, ultimately, found no reason

to interfere with the

championship race.

The outcome also spikes the guns

of those who suggested the whole

enterprise was a facade to allow the sport's powerbroker,

Bernie Ecclestone, to stage a

final-race decider in Brazil on

October 21 in front of a primetime

European TV audience on

Sunday evening.

However, it remains a moot point

whether it is in the interests of

the sport to revisit an incident

five days after it occurred. It is

within the regulations, but not

entirely satisfactory.

Perhaps, on this basis,

Maradona's Hand of God goal

should be wiped.

There is also the question

whether YouTube footage

should be considered

admissible. After all, Ecclestone

is in charge of TV deals and

frowns on pirate films on


Formula One is a master of the

theatrical and we may never know

whether yesterday's drama was a

charade played out for the

cameras or a rigorous display of

sporting fairness.

There is, perhaps, a chance it was


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