Inconsistent steering leaves Hamilton with rough justice

The credibility of F1 is being stretched as race stewards fail to make punishment fit the crime – or lack of it. David Tremayne reports

Coming so soon after the decision by stewards in Valencia not to penalise Felipe Massa for a pit lane transgression, Lewis Hamilton's demotion from victory to third place in Belgium over the weekend left a sour taste in most mouths. Even Ferrari admitted that they had not protested over the result, as McLaren's Hamilton crossed the line first after vanquishing their champion, Kimi Raikkonen.

A year ago, under the direction of Jean Todt, that would have been an automatic reflex. Under the management of Stefano Domenicali, however, the win-at-any-cost mentality has been toned down. That makes it all the more regrettable that the stewards Nicholas Deschaux, Surinder Thatti and Yves Bacqueline should not have emulated the common sense judgement exercised by Graham Stoker, Enzo Spano and Manuel Vidal in Spain. This was a crucial race for the beleaguered Raikkonen, who has not won since Spain in May and more often than not has trailed his team-mate Felipe Massa, the man who was declared the winner on Sunday. Raikkonen has been accused of cruising as he repeatedly excused poor qualifying performances by saying he could not generate sufficient temperature in his Bridgestone tyres over one very quick lap.

He put all that behind him on Sunday as he forced his way past Massa on the opening lap – nearly putting him into the wall in the process – and then taking the lead when Hamilton spun at the still-slippery La Source corner on the second lap. Thereafter he had the race in his pocket until the rain came in the closing stages and turned Spa into a skating rink. In the course of one lap he made a mistake in letting Hamilton challenge him at the chicane at the end of lap 42, let the Englishman overtake him at La Source at the start of the next lap, spun at Pouhon after retaking the lead, and then crashed out further round the circuit. Just as it seemed his performance had reconfirmed his commitment, this rash of forced errors opened up questions over his future all over again.

The biggest bone of contention about the stewards' decision to penalise Hamilton, and to drop him from first to third place, is that he manifestly did not secure an advantage by missing part of the chicane in his battle with Raikkonen.

It was clear he backed off and let the Finn retake the lead. But Raikkonen not only gained an advantage by running on to the high-friction run-off area on the exit to La Source on the opening lap, but did likewise at Pouhon on the 43rd, before he spun. At no stage did the stewards propose a penalty for those actions.

This inconsistency opens up the debate about a permanent steward all over again. In 2006 the sport's ruling body, the FIA, employed a lawyer, Tony Scott Andrews, in that capacity, and his cool-headed, fair judgement was evident when he put Michael Schumacher to the back of the grid in Monte Carlo after his unsporting attempt to block the track, and Fernando Alonso's best lap, during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. Scott Andrews, however, parted company with the FIA at the end of last year.

The lack of consistency in decision making was highlighted when Bruno Senna was given a drive through penalty by the stewards in Belgium for precisely the same transgression that earned Massa only a €10,000 (£8,000) fine in Valencia. For the credibility of a cash-strapped sport that has already been through the mill with the Mosley affair this year, that situation can no longer be tolerated.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam