Hamilton cleared of cheating after farce of trial by YouTube

The cloud that threatened rain for Lewis Hamilton's world championship parade finally blew away late last night in a wind of farce that came close to making the sport's governing body a laughing stock.

The 22-year-old Englishman, leader of the points table after 15 of the 17 races following a stunning victory in Japan last weekend, faced trial by YouTube after the Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost drew the FIA's attention to a Japanese fan's amateur video of the incident in Fuji when Hamilton braked to avoid running into the safety car, and triggered an incident in which Red Bull's Mark Webber also had to slow down and was tailgated by his Toro Rosso stablemate Sebastian Vettel. At the time the stewards in Japan, led by Briton Tony Scott Andrews, ruled that Vettel was the guilty party and handed down a 10-grid-place penalty for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.

Before the stewards finally decided to take no further action Hamilton, who has experienced a rollercoaster ride in his first season in Formula One that has been riddled with polemics, said: "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. Formula One is supposed to be about hard competition 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 [in Japan], 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."

As his own team-mate questioned his tactics of continuously accelerating and then braking hard in the final section of the Fuji Speedway, Hamilton explained his actions. "If you look, I did it every lap, that's the line I raced on because it was the dry line and that's probably why I won. There was less water there but I always caught the pace car up.

"I pulled up alongside him, obviously I can't overtake him so I braked which was also giving me more heat in my brakes and my tyres. I waited for him to go away and all of a sudden Mark appeared up alongside me, I decided to accelerate and the next thing I hear is a big thud. He's allowed five car lengths behind me, I don't know why he was so close."

Tost, whose team lost a likely podium finish in Japan, had argued: "You could see quite clearly that Hamilton slows down quite unexpectedly. Sebastian would have had to have gone between the cars [Webber and Hamilton] and there was no chance.

"It was totally unexpected. It looked like Hamilton was stopping, that is why I went to the stewards."

His complaint sparked a fresh controversy as the video – subsequently withdrawn at the behest of Formula One Management – was said to implicate Hamilton in the incident. The FIA yesterday expressed surprise that it had attracted such worldwide interest, amid suggestions that the whole thing had carefully been leaked by spin doctors.

The controversy occupied minds all day in Shanghai, and it was not until the evening that the FIA's race director, Charlie Whiting, reportedly told the drivers in their briefing: "We have seen tens of drivers doing similar things behind safety cars. It is up to you to sort out how you behave."

Shortly afterwards, Hamilton, Webber and Vettel were summoned before the stewards again. The YouTube film was played before Webber and Vettel left, whereupon the stewards then played it again, together with further footage, so that Hamilton could offer his explanations again. The stewards subsequently decided that the new footage offered little meaningful insight and stood by their Japanese ruling that Hamilton had no case to answer. However, they reduced Vettel's penalty to a rap over the knuckles.

"I am very pleased that the stewards reached this decision and I am now looking forward to focusing on this weekend and the rest of the world championship," a relieved Hamilton said.

On the track yesterday, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, Alonso, and Raikkonen's team-mate Felipe Massa were separated by a mere 0.023s as they traded fastest times. On his first visit to the venue, Hamilton was little slower in fourth place.

"Both sessions went pretty smoothly," he said. "I was able to get a good handle on this circuit, the sixth new one for me this year, and completed the planned programme for today. It is a nice track, and the car felt good to drive. I am looking forward to the rest of the weekend where I expect that we have every chance for another strong result."

So long as Raikkonen doesn't win, all Hamilton has to do to clinch the title on Sunday is to finish ahead of Alonso.

Chinese Grand Prix (Shanghai) First free practice: 1 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1min 37.024sec; 2 F Alonso (Sp) McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.108; 3 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:37.128; 4 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.210; 5 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota 1:37.707; 6 R Kubica (Pol) BMW-Sauber 1:38.055; 7 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:38.208; 8 G Fisichella (It) Renault 1:38.217; 9 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota 1:38.270; 10 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW-Sauber 1:38.445; 11 H Kovalainen (Fin) Renault 1:38.551; 12 R Schumacher (Germany) Toyota 1:38.661; 13 D Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Renault 1:38.700; 14 J Button (GB) Honda 1:38.942; 15 R Barrichello (Br) Honda 1:38.945; 16 T Sato (Japan) Super Aguri-Honda 1:39.238; 17 V Liuzzi (It) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:39.497; 18 M Webber (Aus) RedBull-Renault 1:39.535; 19 A Davidson (GB) Super Aguri-Honda 1:39.539; 20 S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:39.898; 21 S Yamamoto (Japan) Spyker-Ferrari 1:40.126; 22 A Sutil (Ger) Spyker-Ferrari 1:40.149. Second free practice: 1 Raikkonen 1:36.607; 2 Alonso 1:36.613; 3 Massa 1:36.630; 4 Hamilton 1:36.876; 5 Trulli 1:37.151; 6 Webber 1:37.450; 7 Schumacher 1:37.524; 8 Coulthard 1:37.617; 9 Rosberg 1:37.646; 10 Fisichella 1:37.970; 11 Kovalainen 1:38.062; 12 Button 1:38.205; 13 Barrichello 1:38.304; 14 Kubica 1:38.379; 15 Heidfeld 1:38.388; 16 Wurz 1:38.531; 17 Davidson 1:38.975; 18 Liuzzi 1:39.065; 19 Sutil 1:39.224; 20 Sato 1:39.360; 21 Vettel 1:39.404; 22 Yamamoto 1:40.051.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride