Hamilton avoids FIA action

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Lewis Hamilton will not be penalised by the FIA after his alleged role in an accident involving Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel in last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton was under investigation for his possible role in the crash, which took place on lap 45 of the 67-lap race.

Vettel's team Toro Rosso had requested that the matter be re-examined due to the appearance of new footage after the German was penalised 10 places on the starting grid for this Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix .

The new video, which was filmed by a fan in the grandstand at the Fuji Speedway and appeared on YouTube, appeared to show the McLaren driver pulling over to the right-hand side of the track and braking sharply, causing Webber to also slow unexpectedly and catch Vettel off guard, causing him to drive into the back of the Australian.

However, the stewards have subsequently cleared Hamilton of any blame, while also reducing Vettel's penalty to a reprimand.

The stewards decision came after a meeting involving Hamilton, Webber and Vettel, plus representatives of McLaren, Red Bull and Toro Rosso.

A statement read: "The stewards have received a request form Scuderia Toro Rosso by way of letter dated October 4, 2007 to re-open matters relating to the race in Japan with particular reference to the penalty imposed on their driver Sebastian Vettel.

"The letter refers to footage said to have been recorded by a spectator. It is the steward's understanding that it appeared on an internet website. The footage shows exactly the same incident as that which was viewed by the stewards late on the evening of the race, albeit from a different angle.

"Having heard the explanation of all concerned and viewed both the original film of the incident which was available to stewards at Fuji as well as the new film (which in reality adds little if anything to the original film), what has become apparent is the view clearly expressed by all drivers and team managers alike that the conditions at Fuji were exceptionally bad and worse than those experienced when the race starts behind the safety car.

"Because of those views, the stewards accept that it may be inappropriate to impose the penalty normally applied for an offence such as this.

"In the circumstances the stewards will reduce the penalty imposed on Vettel to a reprimand.

"The involvement of Lewis Hamilton in this incident has also been considered in the light of evidence given by him, his team manager and in particular all other parties present and no penalty is imposed upon him."

The decision will be warmly welcomed by Hamilton, who had earlier expressed his growing disillusionment with Formula One in light of possible sanctions including a 10-place penalty on the starting grid or even being stripped of the 10 world championship points he earned for his stunning victory in Japan.

"It's just a shame for the sport and if this is the way it's going to keep going then it's probably not somewhere I really want to be," he said.

"Formula One is supposed to be about hard competition, fair and that's what I've tried to do this year, just be fair.

"If I've been in the wrong, I've been the first to put my hand up, or apologise at least, and I don't mind being given a penalty but there's been some real strange situations this year where I'm made to look the bad person or by the looks of it this weekend could be given a penalty.

"I had a good weekend, I don't think I put a foot wrong and I didn't do anything to harm anyone else or put anyone else in danger but I've come away to China and no doubt I'm going to be punished for something.

"I just think it's a real shame for the sport."

Hamilton holds a 12-point lead over closest challenger Fernando Alonso and will become the first rookie to win the world championship if he drops no more than one point to his McLaren team-mate in Shanghai.

But the 22-year-old was only fourth quickest in both of Friday's practice sessions while the Spaniard finished second behind Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen in each of the 90-minute sessions.