Hamilton gets chance to put case

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton will have the chance later today to put forward his argument over why he should be reinstated as winner of the Belgian Grand Prix.

Hamilton spent the first two hours of an FIA International Court of Appeal hearing in Paris listening to lawyers debate the merits of whether McLaren's protest is initially admissible.



Two hours after the race at Spa on 7 September, Hamilton was handed a retrospective 25-second drive-through penalty by the stewards for cutting a corner and gaining an advantage on leader at the time in Kimi Raikkonen.



Under FIA rules a drive-through penalty "is not susceptible to an appeal".



However, McLaren barrister Mark Philips QC, submitted that as no drive-through took place - Hamilton did not take to the pit lane for his penalty - his punishment merely relates to time only, which can be appealed against.



Philips pointed out that after last season's Japanese Grand Prix an appeal was heard when Vitantonio Liuzzi, then with Toro Rosso, was handed a 25-second time penalty after the race for passing Spyker's Adrian Sutil under waved yellow flags.



Philips, who acted on behalf of Spyker on that occasion, won that case, allowing Sutil to claim the team's only point of the season for finishing eighth.



The five judges - Xavier Conesa (Spain), Philippe Narmino (Monaco), Erich Sedelmayer (Austria), Harry Duijm (Netherlands) and Thierry Julliard (Switzerland) - will debate overnight the merits of admissibility.



If the judges allow the appeal, they will discuss the manoeuvre in question at the Bus Stop chicane at the end of lap 42 of the 44-lap race.



Hamilton has earlier claimed he cut the chicane to avoid colliding into Raikkonen, quickly allowing any advantage back to the Finn.



However, the move was contentious as Hamilton's momentum coming out of the corner allowed him to slipstream the reigning world champion and pass him again into the subsequent La Source hairpin.



In his opening argument, Philips said: "Millions of viewers watched Lewis Hamilton take the chequered flag at Spa on 7 September.



"Millions of viewers had seen Lewis Hamilton as the quickest man on the circuit at the moment the rain started to fall.



"At that moment it became a question of when, and not if, he would drive past Kimi Raikkonen. In the wet Kimi Raikkonen was utterly defenceless.



"The world at large saw Lewis Hamilton on the podium taking the trophy, and then saw the post-race press conference.



"After about two hours the stewards decided to add 25 seconds to Lewis Hamilton's race time, so relegating him from first to third.



"The stewards say Lewis Hamilton cut a chicane and so gained an advantage.



"The evidence will show Lewis Hamilton gave the advantage back to Kimi Raikkonen.



"When they crossed the line, Hamilton was 6.7 kilometres per hour slower, and at one stage seven metres behind.



"If he had stayed behind Raikkonen through the corner and down the straight, he would have passed him anyway into turn one.



"But Lewis Hamilton had no other choice but to take an escape route, a decision he made at the last second through that chicane.



"The suggestion he could have braked and slowed down is simply wrong.



"If Kimi Raikkonen had not forced him off the track he would have passed him down the straight."



The court heard a short clip of dialogue between McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan and race director Charlie Whiting at the time of the incident.



Ryan: 'Do you believe that was okay? He gave the position back.'



Whiting: 'I believe it was. Yes.'



Ryan: 'You believe it was okay.'



Whiting: 'I believe it was okay.'



That could prove crucial if the quintet of judges initially rule the appeal is admissible.



If McLaren and Hamilton win the case, the Briton will head into the final four races with a seven-point lead over Ferrari's Felipe Massa, rather than the current one point.



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