McLaren to appeal Hamilton penalty

McLaren have confirmed they are to appeal the retrospective 25-second drive-through penalty awarded to Lewis Hamilton in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

The controversial decision led to Hamilton being demoted from first to third, with a potential lead of eight points cut to two over the eventual race winner, Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

The matter will now go before the International Court of Appeal, who will initially determine whether McLaren's protest is legal.

If there is a case to answer, they will then assess the verdict of the three-man panel of stewards who handed down the penalty.

McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh said: "Following our decision to register our intention to appeal the penalty handed out to Lewis Hamilton by the FIA stewards at the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix, we hereby confirm we have now lodged notice of appeal."

The incident occurred at the end of lap 42 of the 44-lap race, with Hamilton cutting the final corner after being blocked by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen as he attempted to pass the Finn around the outside.

Returning to the Spa track along the start-finish straight, the 23-year-old temporarily held the lead before correctly handing it back to Raikkonen down the pit straight.

Timing sheets indicate Raikkonen crossed the start-finish line 0.6 seconds ahead of Hamilton, with further data showing the 23-year-old was also six kilometres per hour slower at that point.

Hamilton then filed behind Raikkonen, before legitimately passing him again on the run down to the first corner La Source hairpin.

In wet conditions, the lead then changed hands twice more on the penultimate lap prior to Raikkonen spinning into a wall, handing Hamilton the win that was taken away by the stewards two hours later.

Describing the incident, Hamilton said: "In the closing stages of the race I was catching Kimi consistently, lap by lap, and with three laps remaining I got close enough to attempt to overtake him on the entry to the last chicane.

"I managed to get slightly ahead of him in the braking area for the first apex of the chicane.

"He fought back approaching the second apex but, in doing so, he left no room for me on the inside line.

"The only way for me to avoid a collision was therefore to cut inside the second apex.

"I came out of the second apex in front of Kimi and so I momentarily lifted-off on the straight, to ensure Kimi got back in front.

"The team also came on the radio and instructed me to allow Kimi to re-pass, which I had already done.

"As a result, Kimi crossed the start-finish line ahead of me, and 6.7kph quicker than me.

"After allowing Kimi to completely re-pass, I crossed from the left side of the track to the right side of the track, passing behind Kimi in the process.

"I then attacked Kimi on the inside of the first corner, and successfully out-braked him."

Whitmarsh added: "From the pit wall, we then asked Race Control to confirm they were comfortable Lewis had allowed Kimi to re-pass.

"They confirmed twice that they believed the position had been given back in a manner that was 'okay'.

"If Race Control had instead expressed any concern regarding Lewis's actions at that time, we would have instructed Lewis to allow Kimi to re-pass for a second time."

However, it remains to be seen if McLaren's appeal is admissible as Article 152 of the FIA's International Sporting Code states a drive-through penalty is "not susceptible to appeal."

McLaren's lawyers will initially contend there is a case to answer in this respect given the circumstances before hopefully succeeding in reversing the outcome.

The decision of the stewards - Nicholas Deschaux, Surinder Thatti and Yves Bacquelaine - has since caused uproar.

It has prompted leading figures such as three-time champions Niki Lauda and Sir Jackie Stewart to berate their verdict.

It has also compounded the long-held theory world governing body, the FIA, are pro-Ferrari and anti-McLaren.

That has since been strenuously denied by one of the stewards in Kenyan Thatti who said: "There was no conspiracy against anybody, McLaren included.

"We acted professionally and within the FIA rules."

Formula One fans, however, are up in arms at the decision, with a number of blogs logjammed with messages supporting Hamilton and strenuously criticising the FIA.

There is even an internet petition available to sign that up until 5pm today had attracted 23,000 signatures in just 36 hours, with the aim to present it to the FIA.

On, it read: "We, the undersigned, insist that the FIA reconsider the decision made to add 25 seconds to the finishing time of Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) in the Formula One Belgium Grand Prix.

"We believe the decision that has been made to be wrong and strongly urge you to revert back to the original final classifications.

"The rules state that Lewis Hamilton had to give position back to Kimi Raikkonen, which he did. He then freely, and through driving skill alone, got position one back."

Contrast that with a petition calling for the removal of Mike Ashley and Dennis Wise from Newcastle United that has so far only attracted just over 5,000 signatures.