Hamilton's Penalty: Too Hard To Call

Robin SmithContributor ISeptember 8, 2008

I have read many articles on here and all over the place now, most of them written by British fans and commentators and nearly all firmly supporting Hamilton and criticising the Stewards' decision against his move.

At the time of watching the incident in the race, I was cringing.  I was shouting at the screen "Hamilton's got to let him past! Let him past now!". 

Now, I am quite often actively against Kimi Raikonnen in the races for various reasons, but I am a fair person.  Painfully slowly Raikonnen regained his lead over Hamilton.  I just wanted Raikonnen to be back in the lead as soon as possible so that the 'proper' race could be back on and the circumstances back to pre-bus stop chicane.  I knew that Hamilton had every chance of still taking the lead and the victory if he did this.  But my instinct told me this did not really happen at all.  Hamilton gained an advantage, and from then on I had this worry at the back of my mind.

1. An important point I have seen made and agree with is this;  If Hamilton HAD braked and remained behind Raikonnen - which is the normal proceedings when any car closely follows another through a tight corner and would happen if, for instance, there was a wall on the inside of that chicane (which incidentally I now believe they should install - or bollards!) - then Hamilton would have run wide out of the chicane and been on a much different and more disadvantageous line.

But, seeing as there was an escape route, Hamilton decided to use it, to his great advantage.  And now I make this point; in these circumstances I believe that not only should the guilty driver relinquish the position, but he should At Least do this.  By this I mean, they should yield enough so as to make it clear that he has not gained an advantage from cutting a corner. 

The more they yield, the less the risk to themselves.  Now, I do not wholly blame Hamilton for the lack of yield - he's inexperienced, and obviously, anyone competing that closely in the heat of the moment is not going to want to yield any more than they have to.  Self control is going to be hard in moments like that.

2. Another point I have seen; Hamilton would have been around a second behind Raikonnen if he had done the above. 

This is true.  I can see it now in my mind's eye, how it would have gone, the wide line he would have forced himself into coming out of the chicane and onto the straight.  Therefore Hamilton should have yielded at least this much time.

3. A point made by Many fans in their argument for Hamilton; that Raikonnen crashed out later on and the event was therefore 'academic'. 

This holds no water with me at all - who can say what would have happened had Hamilton not taken the lead off Raikonnen at the hairpin, La Source.  Especially given how unpredictable the next two laps were to be.  Moreover, it is surely the principle for which Hamilton was punished.  I see the above point as just an easy grab for some of the British fans trying to justify their feelings, to make themselves feel better.  But I can understand that so I don't blame them.

4. Another point I have seen made; Hamilton was so much faster than Raikonnen that he would have easily got past him later anyway, and therefore the fact that he perhaps didn't yield as much as he should have was irrelevant. 

Here is the glaringly obvious counter - well then surely, it wouldn't have hurt Hamilton at all to give Raikonnen back at least a second!  So he may as well have!  And he should have, too.

5. Second to last point - made by James Allen on the ITV-F1 website; Hamilton yielded 6kmh/h to Raikonnen on the straight - but such was the Ferrari's troubles in the wet that Raikonnen's Ferrari couldn't take much advantage of this. 

In my opinion this is not important - it's the actual, physical re-positioning of Hamilton's car behind Raikonnen's that was important and needed to solidly happen - no matter how slowly Hamilton would have had to have gone to set this up.  It was his fault he cut the chicane and only his, in order to prevent actually Crashing into Raikonnen!  So he should have done what was necessary to make his gesture look unambiguously fair, given that he had just made such a save on his own race, avoiding a collision which could have ruined his race completely.

6. Last point; nobody complained about the race result, not even Ferrari.  Everybody seemed happy (except Ferrari obviously).  Therefore the Stewards should have done nothing and saved the face of Formula One.

While this is a good philosphy - don't try to fix what ain't broke - how much worse would it have looked if the Stewards had nothing nothing, Ferrari had appealed and the Stewards had Then penalised Hamilton?

So my response overall is the same as my instinctual response at the time of watching the race - it looks uncomfortably like Hamilton gained too much of an advantage.  At the very least he didn't gain any kind of Disadvantage to what is effectively cheating - cutting corners!

I won't comment on this whole thing in relation to various other penalties that have been floating around lately - you could say too much about that!  I will note that the penalties themselves clearly are not awarded fairly in relation to each other.

I'm a big fan of Hamilton and really hope he'll win the championship this year - I've got a £25 bet riding on him doing so from which I will make a £36 profit if he wins!  I shall however be Really annoyed if he loses the championship for the second year in a row and my bet on such an incident as this!