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McLaren appeal Hamilton's penalty

Latest update : 2008-09-09

McLaren team are appealing the decision to give a 25-second penalty to Lewis Hamilton at the end of the Belgium Grand Prix. The penalty knocked the racer from first to third place.

Lewis Hamilton's McLaren team confirmed on Tuesday they were appealing against the controversial decision of to strip the British Formula One driver of his victory in last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix. Hamilton won Sunday's race after a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle with defending world champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari.

But he was retrospectively given a 25-second penalty which dropped him to third place for allegedly gaining an advantage by cutting out the Bus Stop chicane at the Spa-Francorchamps track during his duel with Finland's Raikkonen in teeming rain in the closing laps.

It handed victory to Brazilian Felipe Massa of Ferrari who had struggled home second after Raikkonen had crashed with one lap remaining.

The verdict left Hamilton with just a six point lead at the top of the drivers' world championship standings heading into the final five races of the season, starting with this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

In a statement issued from their headquarters, McLaren said: "Following our decision to register our intention to appeal the penalty handed out to Lewis Hamilton by the FIA (International Automobile Federation) stewards at the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix, we hereby confirm that we have now lodged notice of appeal."

McLaren's statement also saw Hamilton give his first detailed explanation of the incident after he and the team both remained tight-lipped on Sunday.

"In the closing stages of the race I was catching Kimi consistently, lap by lap, and with three laps remaining I got close enough to attempt to overtake him on the entry to the last chicane.

"I managed to get slightly ahead of him in the braking area for the first apex of the chicane. He fought back approaching the second apex - but, in doing so, he left no room for me on the inside line. The only way for me to avoid a collision was therefore to cut inside the second apex."

Hamilton, 23, added: "I came out of the second apex in front of Kimi and so I momentarily lifted-off on the straight, to ensure that Kimi got back in front. The team also came on the radio and instructed me to allow Kimi to repass, which I had already done.

"As a result, Kimi crossed the start/finish line ahead of me and 6.7km/h quicker than me.

"After allowing Kimi to completely repass, I crossed from the left side of the track to the right side of the track, passing behind Kimi in the process. I then attacked Kimi on the inside of the first corner, and successfully outbraked him."

McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh added: "From the pit wall, we then asked Race Control to confirm that they were comfortable that Lewis had allowed Kimi to repass, and they confirmed twice that they believed that the position had been given back in a manner that was 'okay'.

"If Race Control had instead expressed any concern regarding Lewis's actions at that time, we would have instructed Lewis to allow Kimi to repass for a second time."

Motor racing great Niki Lauda, himself a three-times world champion and former Ferrari driver, said stripping Hamilton of victory was "the worst judgment in the history of F1".

The decision was the fifth time this year Hamilton, who nearly won the world championship in his rookie season in 2007, had been penalised at a Grand Prix and came a year after his McLaren team were hit with a 100 million dollars fine for allegedly spying on Italian rivals Ferrari.

Date created : 2008-09-09