Hamilton 'harshly' demoted to eighth after Alonso prang

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The Independent Online

Mclaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh described the stewards' decision to hand Lewis Hamilton a retrospective drive-through penalty of 20 seconds for his collision with Fernando Alonso as "disappointing and surprising".

Hamilton was accused of making "more than one change of direction to defend a position" and, in accordance with the FIA rules, had 20 seconds added to his time. It meant the McLaren driver, who had finished seventh at the end of a difficult race at the Sepang circuit, dropped to eighth, with Kamui Kobayashi in his Sauber the beneficiary as he moved up a position.

"I'm not a steward. They make those sort of decisions and that's how it is, but a penalty to both drivers is fairly harsh," Whitmarsh said. "For Lewis, a number of things have happened this weekend, but he is strong and will take heart from other positive factors.

"The result and the mess around it is the disappointment. That's motor racing, and it won't be the last [disappointment] in his career. He was obviously very disappointed at the end of the race, but if you see him now, he is smiling and has recovered."

For causing a collision, the stewards also handed Alonso the same punishment as Hamilton, a 20-second retrospective drive-through penalty. Unlike Hamilton, however, the penalty had no effect on his sixth- placed position in the final classification.

"I knew I was going to get a penalty. I'm not surprised," Hamilton said. "I was in with the stewards, so I anticipated it. I always try to assume the worst-case scenario. It's only one spot, and it's not really made me feel any worse than how the weekend has gone anyway."

As for the fact Alonso did not lose a position, Hamilton added: "Then he's not had a penalty." Asked whether it felt fair, Hamilton said: "It's racing. I'm not going to argue or disagree with the penalty. From my side, I'm not allowed to move more than once. Do I class it as dangerous? No, but that's the rule. Twenty seconds is not such a bad penalty for it.

"As for Fernando, he hit me, he got a 20-second penalty, but it didn't really do anything for him. It doesn't exactly work out as a penalty, but again, that's racing."

Alonso effectively missed out on a place on the podium as he would have claimed third if his manoeuvre on Hamilton had been clean. The Spaniard said: "They [the stewards] told me there is 20 seconds for him and 20 seconds for me as well. It doesn't change my position, so there's no big drama. I finished sixth in the race anyway, and it was a racing incident. I tried to overtake, we touched each other, and unfortunately I broke the front wing and had to pit again. I lost the podium possibility. But in the next race I will try again."

Alonso at least insisted Hamilton did not lift off the throttle at any time in order to try and cause a crash. "No, no, it is one of those things. You try and race and we touched each other," Alonso added. "The stewards called us to ask for our opinions, and the decision is this. We are not the ones that decide or have anything to say about the decision. We try to race, to enjoy the race in the cockpit, and hopefully next time both of us finish with no problems."