We need to put the sport back into motor sport

I think yesterday was the darkest day for Formula 1 since the Indygate fiasco of 2005. We are used to the FIArrari stewards making ridiculous decisions, but even I was surprised that they did what they did yesterday.

For several hours I was extremely angry. I still am angry in fact. But for the first time since I originally fell in love with the sport in the 1990s, I have considered boycotting Formula 1. I almost shut down this blog. I am still not sure if I can be bothered to watch the Italian Grand Prix. For all I know, the race will be decided away from the race track, so maybe I will just read about it in the politics pages of my newspaper in Monday morning.

If you think I am wrong about the incident — and I am amazed to have seen that some people actually take the FIArrari side — just look at Clive’s thorough and methodial assessment, and Grandprix.com’s report.

A lot of people maintain that Hamilton could not have gained enough momentum to overtake Kimi Räikkönen at La Source unless he went through the escape road at the Bus Stop. But McLaren say that their data shows that Hamilton was 6 km/h slower than Räikkönen at the start / finish line. The FIA’s timing data — which records the speed of every car that passes the start / finish line — will verify this.

It is clear that Hamilton lifted off to let Räikkönen past. One minute Hamilton was on the right side of Räikkönen’s car. Later he found himself to the left after Räikkönen swerved to take the outside line going into the entry at La Source. He would have been unable to do this unless Hamilton was behind.

The reason Hamilton caught up with Räikkönen again so quickly was because Räikkönen was extremely slow at that point of the race anyway. As I recall, Räikkönen lost around a second per sector to Hamilton on the previous lap and it was pretty clear that Räikkönen was struggling badly while Hamilton felt more comfortable. I do not accept the notion that Hamilton should hold back from passing Räikkönen for a corner or two when Räikkönen is losing so much time.

Can you, with your hand on your heart, say that Felipe Massa deserved to win the race? Because that is what the stewards are asking us to swallow. Well, I will not swallow it. I will spit it straight out and stamp on it.

It’s not just the fact that the stewards got it so wrong in Belgium. It is partly the fact that the stewards have insulted the intelligence of F1 fans for the second race running. It is partly the fact that we had an excellent race absolutely ruined. It is partly the fact that the stewards — yet again — farcically amended the result after the race.

The absurd Hamilton penalty is just one of a run of dodgy decisions made by stewards in recent races. Bruno Senna was penalised for an unsafe exit in Saturday’s GP2 feature race in Belgium. The incident was curiously similar to Massa’s in Valencia, except that Senna had the excuse of having to deal with extra wheelspin due to a wet track. Senna made sure that he pointed out on television that Massa was let off for the same incident.

It is becoming far to blatant now. The Ferrari International Assistance simply must be stopped. I have a new project in mind. I am going to set up a new website that will aim to be a comprehensive guide to every single contentious decision made in Formula 1.

I hope to log every penalty decision that the stewards make in detail — the driver and the constructor, the grand prix, the rule that was broken and the penalty that was handed out. It will also cover contentious incidents that went unpunished. This way we can easily compare similar incidents

If the FIA really are not biased towards Ferrari, our logs will show it. This new website will not be a place for any partisan posturing or foot-stamping. It will simply detail the facts — and then the fans of motor sport can make up their own minds.

I still need to think about how I am going to implement this. To succeed, it will probably have to be a collaborative effort, but we need to be careful that no-one is able to abuse the website and distort its intentions. I think it might be best to make it a Wiki.

But first of all, I am going to sleep on it. I may as well gather some advice. Do you think it’s a good idea? What format should the new site take? And would anyone be willing to help?

It feels like the sort of thing that I will think is silly when I wake up in the morning. But I am fed up with this. I am deciding now we either need to push harder for F1’s power brokers to change their attitude, or I will just stop watching F1. I can’t take this seriously any more. It is no longer just the odd decision here or there. It is now happening on a race-by-race basis. It is time someone put the sport back into motor sport — and it may as well be us.


  1. Hi Vee,

    Completely agree with you, fuck Fiarrari. That’s a good one, I think I’ll use it from now on. It’s not I’m a supporter of Lewis but I’d still be angry with the FIA”T” even if the driver who was penalised was not Hamilton because it’s just so rubbish.

    As Planet F1 said, we saw what happened ourselves. We are not stupid. I’m already spreading the word that the FIA stands for Ferrari International Assistance and are Ferrari’s bitch.

    I fully support you setting up the website or wiki for all the stupid decisions the FIAT makes so we can show proof of their bias.


  2. Listen, I have looked & thought about this. When I watched it, I believed & still do, that Lewis backed off for the reason of the rules. But there is a nagging feeling that somewhere its written that you have to give back the place from the corner you just gained advantage from & also not contest the next corner either (having done what Lewis did & that was be along side for the following straight)
    But the bus stop, 1 corner or 2?, right is 1 & the left – going out is the second. Because the initial “escape from collision” was on the entrance..
    Wonder if McLaren will have their day in court..
    Will the Championship be sorted after the last race
    One thing, F1 will survive if Ferrari dont.

  3. I’m afraid I don’t agree with you on the penalty business, however a comprehensive list of “crimes” which have been penalised and their respective punishments sounds like a brilliant idea.

    I was only wondering if such a place existed last night funnily enough…

  4. I’ve watched the clips of the incident over and over again and I believe firmly that Hamilton’s penalty was justified.

    The most important thing to remember is that whether Raikkonen finished the race or not is irrelevant. Had the move happened on lap 23 then there would have been a drive through penalty, so the stewards had to take this into account.

    Yes, Raikkonen applied his brakes for the chicane early, but Hamilton then tried to overtake on the outside. When both had completed the first corner of the chicane it was Raikkonen who was much further ahead on track.

    Hamilton then had the option of applying his brakes or lifting off. He could easily have made the second part of the chicane but like any other McLaren driver he sees the easy way out and cuts the corner.

    If Hamilton had indeed made the second part of the chicane (ie, if he had ‘got out of it’ like any other decent driver would have at any other corner) then he would have been nowhere NEAR the back or Raikkonen on the straight and he would not have had a chance of overtaking into turn 1.

    Penalty entirely justified in my opinion.

  5. I simply do not agree with that Neil. For one point, I do not care whether or not Räikkönen finished the race. But it is pretty obvious to that even if Hamilton was in a position to make the Bus Stop (he wasn’t because Räikkönen had nudged him out of the way, but let us just pretend for a second) then Hamilton would still have caught up to Räikkönen by La Source. You just have to look at the sector times of the previous lap — Hamilton was absolutely flying compared to Raikkonen at that stage. The fact that he caught up to Räikkönen was nothing to do with the fact that he cut the chicane, because we know for a fact that Hamilton was travelling more slowly at the start / finish line than Räikkönen was. The reason Hamilton caught back up so quickly was because Räikkönen was so slow and uneasy in the wet conditions.

  6. A commenter on F1 Fanatic blog suggested that Keith compile a list of the decisions by the FIA stewards over the last five or ten years. This is very similar to your idea, Doctor, of starting a Wiki on controversial decisions and I see that Keith is prepared to assist in that. If the facts were presented in list form, we could see for ourselves whether our impression of decisions almost always going Ferrari’s way is correct or not.

    It is possible (although unlikely) that it just seems that the stewards have a long history of bias towards Ferrari – perhaps because controversial decisions stick in the memory while reasonable ones do not. Let’s see if the statistics back up our impression.

    I am driven to answer Neil’s comment because it ignores the facts so obviously. He should have a look at the video of the incident on Keith’s blog and the stills from it on my blog before making assertions that are contradicted by the record.

    “Raikkonen applied his brakes for the chicane early, but Hamilton then tried to overtake on the outside.” Nonsense. As clearly shown in the video, Hamilton was ahead as they hit the braking zone for the chicane. Raikkonen actually braked late, locking his tyres in the process, and so was able to get the nose of his car ahead of the McLaren as they entered the first section of the chicane. They went through that section side by side, Kimi slightly ahead – see my stills.

    “When both had completed the first corner of the chicane it was Raikkonen who was much further ahead on track.” Again, incorrect. As they exited the first section, Raikkonen has half a car’s length on Hamilton and is already crowding Hamilton to the left edge of the circuit. The McLaren’s front wheel is alongside the Ferrari’s sidepod, between Kimi’s front and rear wheels. Had Lewis braked to give Raikkonen the second section without a fight, Kimi’s rear would have hit the McLaren’s front tyre and launched the Ferrari into the air (as we have seen so often in the past). Both drivers would have been out of the race immediately.

    It is easy to say that Hamilton should have lifted off or braked – the video shows clearly that that was not an option, thanks to Raikkonen’s aggressive shutting of the door. Hamilton was forced on to the run-off to avoid an accident.

    “If Hamilton had indeed made the second part of the chicane (ie. if he had ‘got out of it’ like any other decent driver would have at any other corner) then he would have been nowhere NEAR the back of Raikkonen on the straight”. I’ve seen this one so often in comments to the blogs that it really must be answered. It sounds good but is, in fact, more hogwash.

    If Hamilton had miraculously managed to slow his car sufficiently in the space available to follow Kimi through the second section, he would have emerged from the chicane on the Ferrari’s tail. Kimi, having the advantage of hitting the acceleration area first, would have been able to establish a small gap in the first few yards of the straight. Whether that would have been enough to break the tow is debatable, but down the straight the McLaren would have gained sufficiently to re-establish it, even if lost.

    Kimi actually gave away the hairpin by moving left as they approached the braking zone. I can only presume that he did so because he did not think his car could decelerate quickly enough to make the corner had he stayed on the inside. This gave Lewis the inside line and, having more confidence that his car could do the trick (and this was proved correct), he duly took the chance offered. At the entry to La Source, Hamilton was a car’s length ahead, having comprehensively outbraked Kimi.

    The steward’s decision is an outrage and I can think of no other reason for it than the intention was to take McLaren’s victory away by whatever means necessary. Either that or they are incompetents who understand nothing about motor racing or the rules. Neil is entitled to judge which of these is correct but he should not make wild assertions in clear contradiction of the facts.

  7. ‘Whether that would have been enough to break the tow is debatable, but down the straight the McLaren would have gained sufficiently to re-establish it, even if lost.’

    There is no way we can prove this is true, Clive. It’s definitely possible, but as it is, we can’t assume that this would’ve always happened. And that makes the ‘he would have been nowhere NEAR the back of Raikkonen’ theory valid in that in order to fall in line behind Kimi, Lewis would’ve had to scrub off even more speed (to make sure he doesn’t hit Kimi) than when he cut the chicane and braked just enough to let Kimi by.

  8. Well, first of all, not happy at all with the Fia’s post race decision. Seeing people’s reaction to that, I remember Alonso’s words before Monza’06, saying he wouldn’t consider F1 as a sport anymore. I thought at that time he overreacted a little, but now it seems so many people are having the same feeling.
    I also want to make clear that I don’t think the penalty to Hamilton was a good idea at all, but it seems to be that rules about cutting a chicane aren’t exactly clear. Something similar happened to Alonso some time ago, when he cut a chicane, overtaking Webber (I think), and let him pass just to keep their cars very close, and overtaking him again at the next corner. Stewards told Alonso to let Webber pass him again.
    I watched the race live, and then the bus-stop incident again on videos after the race. I also looked at the pics on Clive’s blog. And I still agree with Neil. When Clive says “Had Lewis braked to give Raikkonen the second section without a fight, Kimi’s rear would have hit the McLaren’s front tyre”, he’s making a “fact” (the same facts that made Dennis say that Lewis was clearly in front at bus-stop?) what it’s just a hypothesis. When a driver tries to overtake on a chicane on the outside, and fails to get the clean line on the first corner, he will for sure have to do one of these two things: lift off before crashing on the car in front; or taking the way out, which he did. But both options, in my opinion, are possible. Just because Neil doesn’t have the same point of view, doesn’t mean that he’s “making wild assertions in clear contradiction of the facts”, specially when he said he “watched the clips of the incident over and over again”. We all are giving our opinion here, not giving the only truth of it all.

  9. Sorry, it was Klien, not Webber, at Suzuka, two years ago.

    By the way, nice blog, Duncan, as always. Keep it up.

  10. Have a look at still number 5 on my post on the incident, Can. This is immediately after the first part of the chicane and Kimi is already pushing Hamilton to the left. As I said, they are so close that any deceleration by Lewis would cause Kimi’s rear tyre to be bounced into the air by the McLaren’s front tyre. If clear evidence of our own eyes is not “fact”, what is?

  11. Thanks Can, and everyone who has commented.

    I think the problem comes down to the fact that the rules are so vague. Hamilton is said to have breached Article 30.3 (a) of the Sporting Regulations:

    During practice and the race, drivers may use only the track and must at all times observe the provisions of the Code relating to driving behaviour on circuits.

    And Appendix L chapter 4 Article 2 (g) of the International Sporting Code:

    The race track alone shall be used by the drivers during the race.

    According to the letter of the law therefore, every driver who left the circuit at any point during the race would be penalised. That would probably be almost every driver in Belgium.

    Nowhere in the rules — as far as I know — is it written that a driver may cut a chicane and then let the driver back through if he gained an advantage. But that has become the convention, even though it is not written in the rules. That feels like a fair enough compromise.

    Whether or not it is a convention that a driver should wait another corner or two before overtaking again I am not so sure. I cannot recall hearing of that before. Whatever, it certainly isn’t in the rules.

    And this is the problem. Over the years the stewards have made so many different decisions that it has become a complete lottery as to whether or not a driver has broken the rules. It comes down to simple interpretation, and one may say that F1 is slowly becoming a “judged” sport where the winner is decided not by which driver is the fastest but by which driver the judges are most favourable to.

    Increasingly, we are seeing teams and drivers come up with various mitigating circumstances to excuse their rule-breaking. For instance, Ferrari say that Felipe Massa’s pit stop release in Valencia was safe because he did not gain a sporting advantage (a pathetic excuse).

    Whether or not Hamilton gained an advantage at the Bus Stop is simply a matter of interpretation. We can argue about who was ahead at what point, whether Raikkonen nudged him off, whether Hamilton got extra slipstream and all of these various mitigating factors until the cows come home.

    As far as I see it, F1 has two choices. The first choice is that it sorts this mess out once and for all and puts down clear penalties that are handed out a consistent manner. The second choice is that it becomes a sport where the winner is decided by judges.

  12. Clive, I don’t want to make an argue of this. I’m just saying that those stills are far away from being clear. It happens, for example, on pic number 2, where you comment that “Hamilton is clearly ahead and not just by a nose”. When you see the clip (there are plenty on youtube), that is not that way at all. The angle of that still makes you see that, you’re making an interpretation of what happened, not stating a fact. If you are able to see that Lewis’ right front tyre would clearly collide with Kimi’s left rear one using that pic, congratulations. I just simply can’t do that.(Note that I really appreciate the effort you made on analysing the incident the better and more transparent way possible, with the elements you were able to use).

    But anyway, afterall, I truly consider that this race’s result shouldn’t have been changed after the race. And I think we all agree with this.

  13. I’ve a feeling that those who think one way or another will continue to feel that way and no amount of persuasion (or arguing) is going to change that!!

  14. I only watched the race last night, and I haven’t had time to calm down yet.

    This is absolutely ludicrous. Just as bad as Monza 2006.

    Since both incidents involve Massa, I am starting to wonder if its just FIARRARI they favour these days, or Massa himself?

  15. doctorvee, Keith, I’m prepared to let you have some space on my wiki for the purpose of this penalty recording, if you like. You just need to log yourselves into the wiki and then construct the necessary pages to your heart’s content. I will help you put up penalties – and you will definitely need some help, given that there are ten decisions to put up for this race alone…

  16. Alianora, that’s very kind of you. I’ve found the wiki. I will have a tinker around and see what I can up with so that other people can have a better idea of what I have in mind.

  17. Thank Friend of Max, that’s a good article.

    I don’t know if I can be bothered to go ahead with the wiki idea. Maybe I will get into it the next time I’m outraged by a steward’s decision.

    In the meantime I’ve experimented a bit over at Alia’s wiki here.

  18. I know what you mean, it is a lot of effort for it to be in the end–I imagine–largely ignored…

    In reality someone at the FIA should be doing this, so they don’t have to (or appear to) make up the rules as they go. That’s what it feels like.