Now, I may not be a lawyer, but I am capable of reading the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations as defined by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile on the 19th May 2008, which, based upon interpretation alone, would suggest that more than one rule was breached on Sunday afternoon in Belgium.
The latest Mclaren versus the FIA saga was sparked by the most unpredictable factor in the world of grand prix racing, the rain. As the MP4-24 began to reel in the Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen, I could feel the passion of every Englishman pushing Hamilton past the prancing horse.
As he made the move into the on-off camber left-right chicane which has replaced the historic bus stop chicane, his own words echoed through my mind. Earlier in the weekend, Lewis had said to ITV presenter Steve Ryder, “I don’t get overtaken often, not least on the outside.”
Of course he was referring to Felipe Massa breath-taking first corner manoeuvre in Budapest earlier on in the season, but this time he was trying in on the Brazilian’s teammate and it looked like it was going to work. Sure, he was on the outside, but for the next left hander and the short start/finish straight down to La Source, he looked like he was set up to take the lead.
What followed was a relatively small incident that looks set to define the 23 year old Englishman’s season. As the pair hit the brakes to slow down for the tricky right and left, the pair simultaneously lost traction on the unloaded front right wheel and locked up.
Now, at this point Hamilton was a hair’s breadth ahead, but as Räikkönen careened straight on, the Englishman had no choice but to leave the circuit, continue straight on and rejoin after the chicane.
Now, in the FIA’s sporting regulations under article 16.1 it states that “any action by any driver which forces a driver off the track” is deemed a racing incident and should be investigated by the stewards. However, amidst the madness that occurred on Sunday afternoon, I feel that this series of events was unfortunately overlooked.
What happened next has been discussed extensively by the world’s press, Formula One observers, and even "that guy" in the pub. As Lewis came out of the final corner ahead, Ron Dennis hit the Lewis button on his headset and told the boy to let the current world champion through, after all he had another two laps to take a glorious victory at the circuit deep in the Ardennes forest.
According to telemetric evidence, as they both crossed the line, Hamilton had lifted off to the extent that he was travelling at 6km/h slower than the Ferrari. No advantage gained by cutting the corner there then, so where was the need for the 25 second penalty?
Furthermore, as the Ferrari edged ahead, Lewis slipped completely behind Räikkönen, he switched to the inside line and out braked the Finn into the inside of La Source, before "the Iceman" appeared to break yet another regulation and turned in on a car that was already ahead of him and clipped the back of the Mclaren.
Was this pure desperation on Kimi’s part? It surely was, as this was the crux of his season, the apparent beginning of his supporting role to his lesser experienced team mate Massa.
For an hour or so after the race, Hamilton was being praised for his improbable victory, whilst the fans heard that the stewards at the circuit were deliberating over the events of the last few laps.
It was at this point that another set of words began floating around my head. When asked about Felipe Massa’s release into the path of Adrian Sutil in Valencia two weeks previously, former Ferrari head boffin and current Honda boss Ross Brawn claimed that the Italian outfit had always been close contact with the stewards at the FIA, they had a good rapport and therefore they were able to understand the rules to their advantage and were able to point out anything they deemed unfair, and why shouldn’t they?
Looking back though, on the banning of Mclaren’s ECU’s in 2001, the ‘spygate’ scandal last year, and the numerous penalties imposed on Mclaren in the 2008 season, it all began to make sense. It is certainly not that the FIA have a vendetta against Mclaren, for me that is a bit too far fetched, but it is instead that the Woking based outfit are unable to "play the game" with the same finesse as their Italian counterparts.
However, if they bring the facts to the appeal panel’s attention, they will surely prove that they were not only innocent, but former Mclaren employee Kimi Räikkönen was fundamentally in the wrong. Will Ron Dennis and his men learn the rules of the game? Only time will tell.
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