2008 Japanese F1 GP – Stewards vs Hamilton vs Massa vs Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais and Felipe Massa, 2008 Japanese GP

Sebastien Bourdais and Felipe Massa, 2008 Japanese GP

Another race, another controversy. And yet again it involved both main title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa.

Incident no 1 – Race start – Hamilton (and Kovalainen) vs Kimi

I watched the video replay of the race start few times (at the moment you can see it here). Raikkonen had quite good start and it looked like he is ahead of both McLarens. Kovalainen was next to him, Hamilton behind. Hamilton however seemed to be quicker and squeezed between Kovalainen and Raikkonen. Watching it from the front it looked like these three are next to each other. Then just before turning into the first corner Hamilton moved in Raikkonen’s direction leaving Raikkonen with nowhere to go but straight. It is hard to say if Hamilton touched Raikkonen or not. Raikkonen says that both McLarens hit him, Hamilton (when commenting on the penalties imposed on himself and Massa) insisted that he did not hit anybody:

Kimi Raikkonen:” I got a pretty good start and got into the first place but then braking into the first corner I was trying to turn in and there was first one McLaren and then a second and I think they both hit me and I had nowhere to go. I needed to go straight.”

Heikki Kovalainen: “Kimi initially jumped Lewis and then I think Lewis was trying to fight back. They both went a bit deep and I also went a bit deep. I don’t know… I thought it was just a normal first corner.”

This is what the top 3 had to say about the penalty at the post race press conference:

To all drivers: the stewards decided to give Lewis Hamilton a drive-through penalty for what happened at the start. Do you consider that was fair?

Fernando Alonso: I agree. (no love lost here :-) )

Kimi Raikkonen: I don’t know. I didn’t see the whole thing. I only saw him when he came up next to me. I’m not sure if he hit me or not but they make their decisions, so I have nothing against it.

Robert Kubica: I don’t know what happened in the first corner, so it’s difficult to judge.

I think under normal circumstances the stewards would judge this incident the way Heikki Kovalainen saw it – just a normal first corner. There was a move towards Kimi from Hamilton and yes Kimi could not turn into the corner as he had Hamilton’s car to his right. But was that an illegal move from Hamilton ? Hard to say, aggressive – definitelly, illegal – I am not that convinced. Stewards were and Hamilton received driver through penalty.

Incident no 2 – Lap 2, Turn 10 – Hamilton vs Massa

After the poor start and all the mess in the early stages of the race Lewis Hamilton found himself even behind Felipe Massa. He tried to recover the lost ground and get back ahead of his title rival. Hamilton managed to do just that. But then Massa attempted to get the position back, Hamilton however did not leave the door open, Massa took the gravel way and hit Hamilton. Massa survived and went on, Hamilton however spun and had to wait for the entire field to pass before rejoining the race. (video also here).

When I saw the incident first time and then again from the replay during the race I did not see much wrong from Massa. I was actually thinking it was Hamilton who pushed Massa out of the track. But after seeing few more replays it did look to me like Massa was all out of the track (all four wheels behind the white line) and perhaps should have given the position back to Hamilton (who was ahead at that moment anyway). We know how it played out. I may be going against the popular opinion here but I do think that this was 50:50 situation and none of the drivers should have been penalized. Stewards thought differently and penalized Massa with drive through. Here is how two drivers involved seen this and also the first corner incident:

Lewis Hamilton: “You can always look back and wish you’d done something (differently) – I made a mistake and I paid for it. That sort of thing happens, you’ve just got to keep your head up and keep going. “

Felipe Massa (on the race start incident): “On the start, he made a bad start and Kimi passed him. Then he tried to brake completely when everybody was in the corner. He pushed to a much wider line and [Heikki] Kovalainen was on a wider line as well, so it was a big casino over there. For me that was a little bit too optimistic especially if you are thinking about the championship.”

Felipe Massa (on the lap 2 Turn 10 incident): “He [Hamilton] braked very late and I braked very late, and then I was a little bit wide in the first part of the corner. Then he had my inside line and pushed me a little bit wide in the gravel, and then I went with the wheels on the gravel but the next corner was on the left. Then we just touched each other, so in my opinion it was a racing incident. But we had a drivethrough and we paid, and it is a bit difficult to speak after the race when we have already had the drivethrough.”

Did he crash into Hamilton deliberately:

“For sure not, I [Massa] had two wheels on the gravel. I could not stop the car and I was on the gravel because he [Hamilton] pushed me into the gravel.”

Were the penalties justified:

Felipe Massa: “For him yes, for me I am not sure.”

Lewis Hamilton: We both got the same penalty, but I didn’t hit anyone and he did. I guess that’s just the name of the game.

Not surprisingly Hamilton and Massa are not in agreement here. I think that both these 2 incidents were somewhere on the edge of legality, perhaps Hamilton’s offence more on the legal side while Massa’s leaned more towards the illegal. The stewards chose to act neutrally and penalized both. Right or wrong ? Frankly I have no idea, after the incidents in the recent races I have no idea any more what is and what is not OK when 2 cars get close on the race track …

Incident no 3 – Lap 50, pit lane exit through the Turn 1 – Bourdais vs Massa

If the 2 above incidents resulted in controversial rulings by stewards, this one is rather bizzare … I was surprised when the stewards announced this incident to be investigated after the race. I though well, they will look into it, realized nothing really happened and will not penalize Massa again. Well, they did not penalize Massa (as I expected), they penalized Bourdais with 25 seconds penalty…


Find more videos like this on F1Wolf Club
Massa vs Bourdais video

Sebastien Bourdais: “For me it’s very clear. Yes, I exit the pits, yes I’m supposed to be careful and I was. I stayed inside and I didn’t push him out, I didn’t overshoot the corner. I did everything I could not to run into him and he just squeezed and turned and behaved like I didn’t exist, like I wasn’t there. What am I supposed to do? I’ve been in this position many, many times and I never had any incidents. It’s just a little bit of respect, you give each other room and then everything goes right, but if you don’t for sure it’s going to be an incident.”

Now, as as I said, I am no longer sure what is and what is not OK when 2 cars meet on the track in F1, I can’t tell whether this penalty is justified or not. I however think, it is not. All it did it deprived Bourdais and Toro Rosso of hard earned points and reduced Massa’s gap to Hamilton to 5 points only…

Although I am not one of those who would no matter what feel that Hamilton is hard done by FIA (at the end, if he kept out of trouble as he said he would :-) there would not be much for stewards to do about him) I feel that it really is about the time FIA did something. Not only about the stewards but about the rules. As long as the rules are as vague as they are the stewards will never get it right. There will always be someone who will feel hard done, there will always be accusation of pro-somebody bias …

15 Comments Post a Comment
  1. [...] Sebastien Bourdais som kommer ut ur depån samtidigt som Felipe Massa kommer farandes. Håller med F1wolf, kunde aldrig tänka mig att det skulle bli ett straff. När nu depån är konstruerad som den är, [...]

  2. andyNo Gravatar says:

    how can it be ok for massa to overtake by crossing from the main track to the pit exit lane? what if a car had been coming out of the pits?

    also has there ever been a penalty for a first corner incident before? they happen pretty much every race!

    another case of the FIA’s (Ferrari International Association) unbiased rulings?

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      I think with the “pit exit lane” remark you mean the overtaking he pulled on Webber. I think that one was perfectly fine. If someone is exiting the pit lane he simply has to watch out for what is happening on track. you can see on many tracks the cars regularly crossing the pite lane exit line in the first corner. Just rewind 2 weeks back to Singapore for example

  3. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    After looking at the video of the incident involving Bourdais & Massa, I have now run out of excuses for the FIA. With the replay facilities they have at their disposal there is no excuse for a disgusting decision like this.

    It makes a complete laughing stock of the whole F1 scene, and if this situation is allowed to continue much longer a parting of the ways will arrive sooner rather than later, and the unfortunate losers in all of this will be Ferrari who will find themselves totally isolated from the rest of the motorsport community.

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      I am not sure if the right category for this decision is “disgusting” as you put it or “stupid” as Black Zedd did below. In any case I fail to see any justification for it. For me it was pure racing incident in which both parties played its part and it should have been left penalty free

  4. The Bourdais incident is beyond the pale, and makes me believe that those who claim endless Ferrari bias are justified. I have changed my mind: I will never own one.

    Now I believe that FIA will hand Massa the championship while he does not deserve it.

    Les Scarboroughs last blog post..AB Gallery – Melanie w/Balloons !

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      I would not go as far as saying that Massa does not deserve the championship. That however does not change anything on the fact that if Felipe Massa wins the title many people will feel that is was not not entirely because of his performances and that is very unfortunate.

  5. Black ZeddNo Gravatar says:

    I agree that it may be absurd to say that there’s a conspiracy against McLaren, but the fact that poor (or stupid actually) decisions like this are made again and again is a clear indicator that FIA needs to buckle up or risk facing more conspiracy theories. The theory is becoming more justified with each judgment they made.

    Black Zedds last blog post..Your Friends, Your Email And The Stupidity

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      … and the stupid decisions will keep on coming unless there are some clear guidlelines set in the rules and regulations at least for the most obvious offences or incidents …

  6. [...] At this stage both Massa and Hamilton were down, but still on the egde of point scoring positions. Then however came lap 2 and Turn 10. Hamilton attacked, Massa defended only to run a bit wide in the following corner. Hamilton took an advantage and squeezed ahead of his title rival. Massa tried to claim the lost ground back but ran wide with all four wheel over the kerbs and beyond. Collision with Hamilton followed. Massa lost some track position but continued right away. Hamilton had to wait for all the cars to pass. After rejoing the race he went straight to pitlane, filled up his car hoping that change of strategy may help to salvage some point. But then came the penalties for both him and Felipe Massa (read more here) … [...]

  7. Okay. Perhaps it’s too strong to say Massa wouldn’t deserve the championship — He’s risking his life and driving very very well. However, the incident with Kimi is at least questionable,and the season-long lack of penalties for Massa on dragging his mechanic down the pit lane twice, exiting the pit side-by-side with another car (which always seems to get a penalty for anyone else but didn’t when Massa’s car was sent) and in this race two side-by-side corner entries (Hamilton and Bourdais) which, when any other car is involved is just a racing incident . . .

    It isn’t pertinent that Hamilton’s problems were partly self-inflicted. The point is that the penalties are inconsistently applied, and quite often the case can be made that Ferrari is the beneficiary. Even the timing of the penalty enactment is questionable. How often can it be statistically possible that the timing of the moment the stewards decide to apply the penalty seems to benefit Ferrari?

    Bourdais was in a points paying position, wasn’t he? Why, in a case where both cars are fighting for points and Massa is scored further back than Bourdais, is Massa’s progress more important to F1 than Bourdais? This was a position fight.

    Would anyone have been surprised if things were reversed and they would have penalized Bourdais? i.e. Massa leaving the pits in a points-paying position and Bourdais turns in on him causing a spin?

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      well as I said in my previous comment, it is very unfortunate that if at the end Massa manages to win the title, many people will believe that it was becasue of the unfair decisions by stewards or FIA and that is very unfortunate. Not the fact that people will feel like that, but the fact that the silly and inconsistent decisions by the stewards give people reasons to have those feelings.

  8. I agree with you, Wolf. I want to watch teams and drivers race cars, and often what we watch is pontificating and legislation.

    This year I have come to feel that the stewards have been arbitrary, inconsistent and intrusive. It’s not nearly as enjoyable to watch them rearrange the grid as it is to watch cars dicing.

  9. [...] expected there have been voices slamming the Fuji race stewards for their decisions on the three racing incidents. But while many fans felt that Lewis Hamilton should not have been penalized for his first corner [...]

  10. luke141No Gravatar says:

    I think what adds to all these conspiricies is that every controversial decision by the stewarts involves a ferrari. Although i would like hamilton to win the WDC last year, i had no problem with raikkonen winnning as he drove well. But i feel massa shouldnt win as he has just been handed too many points; mainly spa and japan, but also in france where raikkonen was clearly quicker and massa just inheritied the win.

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