Hamilton: I didn't deserve a penalty

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton defended his driving ethics as resolutely yesterday as he had defended third place against attack from arch-rival Fernando Alonso's Ferrari during last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix. Both drivers had 20-second penalties added to their race times afterwards by the stewards, the Briton for making more than one change of direction trying to keep Alonso at bay on the 45th lap; the Spaniard for running into the back of his McLaren a lap later. Neither think they did anything wrong.

Alonso retained sixth place, but Hamilton dropped from seventh to eighth in a race he had hoped to win. "I don't think I was overly defending my position," he said as he prepared for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. "I'm a racer, and people want to see racing, to see overtaking, and I would never in a million years try to put anyone else – or even myself – in danger.

"I've always raced with my heart and made pretty smart decisions when racing and defending. When you're defending you have to make your car as wide as possible. The rule is you're not allowed to make more than one manoeuvre but where they were saying I was defending too much was on the straight, where he was 10 or 15 metres behind me, so I wasn't defending a move that he had done."

Hamilton used the same reasoning successfully to avoid a penalty against Renault's Vitaly Petrov last season. "It's how you interpret the rules and you can't do anything about it," he acknowledged.

Reflecting on a race in which his tyre wear had been much worse than second-placed team-mate Jenson Button's, he added: "I was already quite far back so it [the penalty] didn't really make any difference to me personally. The performance we had in the first and second stints was good, and if I hadn't been stuck behind [Nick] Heidfeld I would have been able to keep very close behind [race winner] Sebastian [Vettel] and fight at the pitstops.

"Normally you have to open up the cooling, which loses downforce and efficiency. We didn't have to do that. Maybe others had to do that, maybe Red Bull, and in doing so I think they lost a bit of speed."

Hamilton expects another tough fight against the dominant Red Bulls this weekend, but is placing his reliance on new components McLaren have brought to China to enhance their performance. "I definitely plan to be at the front this weekend," he added.