Lewis overtaking SC? Was the penalty fair?


Motorsports' answer to Eric the Eel
Seeing as there is not a thread devoted to this incident, I though I would start one and try to draw together some of the facts and evidence.

Firstly, exhibit 1, still image of the cars at the pit exit line.


This image shows just how marginal the decision truly was. At the line it is obvious that LH is with half a cars length of the SC, working out to less than a meter. Alonso has been quoted as saying that he was only a meter behind Lewis's car at this point, sadly this image shows this too not be the case. If Lewis had not momentarily hesitated he would have been past the SC before the line and we would not be having this discussion, neither was Alonso close enough that the hesitation cost him the opportunity to also pass the SC.

This brings me on to the reasons why the Stewards took so long to come to a decision about Hamilton's penalty. First of all I truly believe that this decision was so marginal that immediately upon the incident occurring and on the aftermath of Webber's colossal crash, the Stewards were not even aware that an infringement of the rules had occurred. It was not until Alonso concerns were passed on that the investigation even commenced. It took approximately 10 mins to start investigating the incident, and a further 20 mins for the Stewards to make a decision.

Why this time?

Well, unfortunately, the aerial footage I have showed above was not immediately available, and it took some time to drag it form the archives and pass it onto the Stewards. The first shot they would have seen was the inconclusive evidence from the side of the track, not enough to base a decision on. The second thing they would have done would have been to look at the GPS data of the cars. Despite having military grade GPS units, these units are still only sensitive to 1 m, unfortunately not accurate enough for a decision this marginal. Due to this they then had to check with McLaren the exact location of the GPS unit on the McLaren and compare it with the unit on the safety car. Even after having done this there was still no conclusive evidence. It was not until the aerial footage above was located that they were able to initiate a penalty, by which time Hamilton had a big enough gap to retain 2nd position.

The delay in penalising Hamilton was because Whiting and the stewards wanted to be absolutely sure that a penalty was justified. Hamilton at first seemed to slow down when he saw the Safety Car out of the corner of his eye, then realised that the Safety Car line was further up the road and carried on. Whether he got there before the Safety Car or not, was a close call.

Proving it was no simple matter. Race control has the use of a GPS system but there was no back-up timing loop at that point and so they had to find footage of the incident. That was initially from the wrong angle and was inconclusive and so they had to locate aerial footage. There was also the question of exactly where the timing transponders were on Hamilton's car and the Safety Car respectively which, if you are talking about less than a car's length, is significant. That all needed to be checked and speeds/distances ratified.

Alonso would be kicking up nowhere near as big a fuss if it was some other driver benefiting from such an occurrence. In fact in Singapore 08 (yes that whole scandal) Rosberg pitted during the infamous SC period when the pit lane was closed, received a belated drive-thru and took second position. There were no complaints about this saga now was there? Also I hear no complaints from him about other drivers breaking their SC delta times and effectively breaking the rules and costing him further positions. Incidently the reasons for the light penalties:

The FIA also pointed out that the speeding penalties for cars during their pit stop laps under the Safety Car were relatively lenient because many of them were doing 180mph plus within a couple of hundred metres of the Safety Car line when the car was deployed and could do little about it. They may have broken the letter of the law but not its spirit.

One thing that this incident has brought to light is the need to update the SC rules. Maybe now with no refuelling we can go back to the time when the pit lane was closed immediately upon the exit of the SC?
We've discussed it on the main Valencia thread but it's a good idea to have a separate thread about it.

There is no doubt that Hamilton broke the rules, the evidence is clear, but I do not think it was calculated or maliciously done in such a way as to affect Alonso.
It was very marginal and as you say, if he had not hesitated then he would have been clear through and scampered away with Vettel.

So yes, the stewards were correct to penalise him and the delay in coming to a decision has been explained.
In addition, the stewards were also dealing with Mark's crash, some dangerous releases in the pit lane, 9 drivers who had exceeded the lap delta so this one would have been in the list to sort out, not necessarily at the top of the pile.

What's more interesting is Alonso's seeming obsession with Hamilton.
He made several radio calls to his team, first instructing them to get Charlie Whiting to investigate and then after Hamilton had served his penalty, checking what position he had come back out in.
This is very unusual behaviour for a driver.

Ironically, Mark Webber's first win at the Nürburgring last year involved a drive through yet he still went on to win the race as he had such a big lead. I don't recall Alonso complaining about that?

Also, at Singapore in 2008, Nico Rosberg entered the pits when they were closed which was a clear cut and dried case. Again the stewards took so long to decide on a penalty that Rosberg built up a big enough lead to only drop 1 place. Ironically that was the very race in which Alonso profited from his teammate deliberately crashing to bring out a safety car to enable him to win the race.

So yes the penalty was deserved.
No I don't think it was intentional on behalf of Hamilton.
And no, I don't think the stewards took longer than they have for other similar offences in the past.

I agree on the SC rules. It's obvious that it's a lottery as to who gains and who loses out now so the rules need to be amended to correct that.
If Hamilton had dropped in behind the SC yesterday then the big gainer was Vettel who had a 1 lap advantage plus those who managed to pit such as Button, etc.
Those who lost out were caught on the pit straight and unfairly penalised simply because they were at the front of the field.
The penalty was fair because he broke the rules. But I don't think there should be a special increase in the penalty if you happen to come out ahead of 3rd place. That's just good driving. Heard of that, Fernando?
Yeah I've just noticed the discussion in the race thread. Apologies to be bringing it back up. Must still be tired after all my driving over the weekend ;)

As Hamilton said in his post race interview, knowing Alonso's weakness is a good thing, and an even better thing for Hamilton, that it is he the Spaniard is worried about.

I still find it unbelievable that Alonso is more concerned about Hammy than the RBRs. Alonso really seems to have a bee in his bonnet and it is only going to have a detrimental effect on his racing.

Hamilton has this talent for causing controversy, and the only reason for this that springs to mind is that the other drivers, Alonso especially, feel threatened.

It must make Hamilton more confident every time these incidents occur and he hears the comments made. The last thing they want to do it give that lad more confidence!!
I've read the explanation of the delay in the stewards' decision and understand it, but I don't think it necessarily constitutes an excuse.

Firstly, the onboard camera on Hamilton's car clearly shows him passing the SC line after the Safety Car. That footage would have been sufficient, I think this business about the location of the GPS is nonsense to be perfectly honest. But even allowing for that, why is it that aerial footage is not available for 20 minutes?

I don't for a moment think that there was any motive for delaying the outcome, but the FIA do need to look at the speed of decision-making, and what changes may be possible to give the stewards more evidence more quickly. Rosberg at Singapore in 2008 was an even more horrendous example, and it makes the sport's administrators look incompetent.

As for Ferrari, I doubt whether I would be feeling magnanimous if it happened to me, that's for sure. These things can decide championships, and Hamilton is a rival.
Galahad said:
Firstly, the onboard camera on Hamilton's car clearly shows him passing the SC line after the Safety Car. That footage would have been sufficient, I think this business about the location of the GPS is nonsense to be perfectly honest. But even allowing for that, why is it that aerial footage is not available for 20 minutes?

FOM had various technical difficulties yesterday. It wouldn't surprise me if they had had problems getting the feed across to the stewards. Even if it wasn't that, it does seem very slow. I can't agree with Alonso's 'manipulated' viewpoint though.
Galahad said:
it makes the sport's administrators look incompetent.
That seems to be a recurring theme.

Singapore 2008 has been mentioned.
At Monaco they "forgot" to investigate Rubens for chucking his wheel onto the circuit. Don't they have a log of incidents which they refer to? If so, how can it have been forgotten? If not, why not?

In a lot of cases incidents are put to one side to be investigated after the race, sometimes when there is still three-quarters of the race to run.
We still have no idea who, how and why this is decided.

In the interests of transparency it would be useful if the teams, drivers and fans knew what kind of rules and code the stewards work to.
I love this 'manipulating the race' schtick from Ferrari/Alonso. It is an admission of a guilty conscience really. They've thought about it, haven't they?

Singapore 2008 should be mentioned to establish form from Alonso and indeed to talk about the Rosberg penalty. However, if we look at what comeuppance the cheats got at that particular race
Not a bean
then it has to be said that Hamilton should (consistency wise) not have got the drive through.

I think Hamilton will be absolutely delighted that he is so in Alonso's head.

As for Ferrari and Alonso - you win some you lose some. You've manipulated enough race results and technical regulations as well as planting enough dossiers to know that.
I think the Safety Car's driving needs to be taken into consideration...

Just as the Safety Car leaves the pit it crosses the white pit lane line slightly, which is extremely dangerous; this caused Hamilton to brake, then of course he hesitated and couldn't brake too much to get in behind the Safety or Medical Car as it would've caused a crash.

Looking at all of that, it seems Hamilton was slightly unlucky in recieving a drive-through penalty, but of course he did break the rules... under unusual circumstances.
ag228 said:
Just as the Safety Car leaves the pit it crosses the white pit lane line slightly
This is an excellent point and one that hasn't been really mentioned.

Is that why Lewis lifted?
I guess we'll never really know.

Welcome to the site BTW :)
Top Bottom