The penalty imposed on Bruno Senna during the Belgian GP2 race renewed the debate about pro-Ferrari bias from FIA. No, Bruno Senna is not yet racing against Ferrari. But he received drive through penalty for almost an identical “offence” that brought Felipe Massa under investigation in Valencia – dangerous relase from the pits. Felipe Massa however received only reprimand and the team fine, no other penalty that would have some effect on the race result. (See video of Senna’s incident inside this post). Few could have expected that few hours later after the Belgian Formula 1 race the debates will heat up even more following a decision that went against Lewis Hamilton and for Ferrari. The irony is that the main beneficiary, Felipe Massa, was not even involved in that incident …
When watching the race I smelled trouble for Hamilton the moment he cut through that chicane. I had no doubts he would give the position back to Raikkonen. He is smart enough to know that he has to do that. But I still expected something to happen that will get him into trouble. He did not disappoint. Although he must have felt that he had upper hand over Kimi in those conditions, he decided he can’t wait. A moments after Kimi regained his lead Hamilton took advantage of being very close to Kimi and pulled another (this time successful) overtaking maneuvre. At that moment I felt that something is not right here and the announcement minutes after the race that the incident is under investigation confirmed my suspicion. From the post race comments from Ron Dennis it is clear that even McLaren had at least some doubts about legality of that move, otherwise why would they enquire with Charlie Whiting ? (see comments below my yesterday post on this topic). I think I can confidently say that should Lewis let Kimi to get clearly back to the lead and then go on and overtake him few corners (or a lap) later, there would be no investigation at all. This way he called the investigation upon himself.
What I however find surprising is that only Hamilton appears to have been subject to this investigation. I expected that the stewards would also look into that mini collision between Raikkonen and Hamilton that actually lead to Hamilton cutting the chicane …
After talking to both parties the stewards made their decision. Hamilton was given drive through penalty (in last 5 laps of the race this changes to 25 sec time penalty), Massa the race win. Now the question – has Hamilton commited any offence that justified this penalty ? Without being a hot head on this issue I will try to look at it as if I were the one to make the decision.
The readers of F1Wolf are split. As the poll stands now, about 2/3 of F1 readers who voted believe the penalty was not justified. One third however believes the penalty was fair.
I myself am one those who voted “I don’t know”. I refused to jump on the wagon with those who immediately branded the decision farcical and biased. The main reason is that I did feel that the fact that Hamilton slowed down, allowed Kimi to get back to the lead did not necessarily mean that he gained no advantage. I am not saying that he deserved the penalty but I do think there was a case for investigation.
When the case came before the stewards I believe there was not much choice for them when it came to the penalty itself. The drive through (translated to 25 sec time penalty) was the only one they had on hand in Hamilton’s case. The question was likely only whether they should or should not impose it. The decision depended on one thing only – did Hamilton gain any unfair advantage thanks to cutting the chicane or did he not ?
Here the opinions are split. If I was to decide my question would be – Would it be possible for Hamilton to get that close to Raikkonen on that straight if not for his momentum and the fact he was in Raikkonen’s slip stream ? Remember how close can F1 cars under normal conditions get to each other these days without running into turbulence of the followed car. On the whole start finish straight Hamilton managed to stay within inches ahead and then behind Kimi before launching the final attack. Was that the advantage gained by cutting that chicane or was that combination of Hamilton’s superior performance at that stage of the race combined with the slippery track ? Remember, once the track gets wet the whole nature of F1 changes and we immediately have lots of overtaking all over the place.
If I were confident that this was all thanks to the advantage from cutting the corner I would without any doubt vote for the penalty. If I had any doubts, even minor, I would be against any decision that might alter the race result and more – the outcome of the Championship. In this case I am not convinced but I have my doubts. Because of that I would not vote for the penalty. Stewards thought otherwise.There is no denying this was very controversial decision and the stewards must have expected the uproar it would generate. They could go the easy way and let Hamilton walk away without any penalty and with the race win in the bag. They however still decided the way they decided. They were either very confident their decision is correct or they did not care at all about the reaction if would spark.
So, justice or farce ?
For the record this is what the stewards sent to McLaren and Lewis Hamilton:
From: The stewards of the meeting
To: The team manager, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
The stewards, having received a report from the Race Director and having met with the drivers and team managers involved, have considered the following matter, determine a breach of the regulations has been committed by the competitor and impose the penalty referred to.
No./driver: 22, Lewis Hamilton
Facts: Cut the chicane and gained an advantage
Offence: Breach of Article 30.3(a) of the 2008 FIA Formula 1 sporting regulations and Appendix L chapter 4 Article 2 (g) of the International Sporting Code.
Penalty: Drive-through penalty (Article 16.3 (a)), since this is being applied at the end of the race, 25 seconds will be added to the driver’s elapsed race time.
FIA Stewards of the Meeting
Received by: Lewis Hamilton, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
Here are the articels mentioned in the ruling:
Article 30.3(a) of the 2008 FIA Formula 1 sporting regulations says:
“During the practice and the race, drivers may use only the track and must at all time observe the provisions of the Code relatiing to driving behaviour on the circuits.”
Appendix L chapter 4 Article 2 (g) of the International Sporting Code relates to overtaking and says:
“The race track alone shall be used by the drivers during the race.”
Here is that above mentioned Bruno Senna video for reference. It does not relate to Hamilton vs Raikkonen incident but to Massa’s pit lane troubles two weeks ago:
Photo: BMW Motorsports