SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS // The McLaren-Mercedes team will appeal the controversial decision by race stewards at the Belgian Grand Prix that stripped Lewis Hamilton of victory on Sunday. Having confirmed their plan to fight the decision, whether or not McLaren can actually put in an appeal remains to be decided by the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) with a date yet to be set for any hearing.
Hamilton was judged to have gained an advantage from cutting the Bus Stop chicane on the 42nd lap as he battled with Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari. The McLaren driver came back on track in front of Raikkonen, but backed off to allow the Finn to regain lead. But Hamilton remained in his rival's slipstream and immediately out-braked him at the La Source hairpin. The trio of Nicholas Deschaux, Surinder Thatti and Yves Bacquelaine, who were the FIA stewards for the meeting, interviewed Hamilton and Raikkonen and listened to the views of staff from both McLaren and Ferrari.
They decided to impose a retrospective 25-second drive-through penalty against the McLaren driver, dropping him from first to third, and promoting the Ferrari driver Felipe Massa to the top spot, with Hamilton dropping to third. A spokesperson for McLaren said: "We looked at all our data, and also made it available to the FIA stewards. "It showed that, having lifted, Lewis was six kilometres per hour slower than Kimi as they crossed the start-finish line.
"Having passed the lead back to Kimi, Lewis repositioned his car, moving across and behind Kimi to the right-hand line, and then out-braked him into the hairpin. "Based on this data, we have no option other than to register our intention to appeal. "We are a racing team and we will now focus on Monza, with a view to extending our lead in the drivers' world championship." Ferrari confirmed they had not protested against Hamilton's driving, and the decision to investigate and subsequently penalise McLaren had come from the stewards.
Team boss Stefano Domenicali said: "I have often said the race is not over until the official results are published, and that was the case today [Sunday]." "As usual, Ferrari will not comment on the stewards' decision.After the race we were called to the stewards and we explained our position." Hamilton has made no comment on the stewards' actions, but had defended his driving in the post-race press conference.
When asked whether he had expected to face sanctions, he said: "You know what they [the stewards] are like, so we will see." He added: "This is motor racing and if there is a penalty, then there's something wrong. "I was ahead going into that corner, so I didn't gain an advantage from it. We were still able to race at the next corner and I gave him his spot back and I think it was fair and square."
Hamilton now leads Massa by only two points in the championship standings. * Reuters