After hearing the McLaren Mercedes team's version of events Monday, a five-member FIA International Court of Appeal convening in Paris on Tuesday ruled inadmissible an effort to appeal the outcome of the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium held Sept.
After hearing the McLaren Mercedes team's version of events Monday, a five-member FIA International Court of Appeal convening in Paris on Tuesday ruled inadmissible an effort to appeal the outcome of the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium held Sept. 7.
Race order was determined after a drive-through penalty was imposed on Lewis Hamilton. Court members Philippe Narmino (president) of Monaco, Xavier Conesa of Spain, Harry Duijm of the Netherlands, Thierry Julliard of Switzerland, and Erich Sedemayer of Austria rejected McLaren's attempt to overturn the decision of race stewards. The court cited Article 152 of the International Sporting Code that states drive-through penalities are "not susceptible to appeal." Hamilton was deemed to have breached Article 30.3 (1) of the 2008 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations and Appendix L, Chapter 4, Article 2 (g) of the International Sporting Code.
"We are naturally disappointed with today's verdict and to have received no ruling on the substance of our appeal," McLaren Group chief operating officer Martin Whitmarsh said. "No one wants to win grands prix in court; but we felt that Lewis had won the Belgian Grand Prix, on track, in an exciting and impressive manner. Our legal team and witnesses calmly explained this, as well as our belief that the appeal should be admissible, to the FIA International Court of Appeal. It nonetheless decided that our appeal was inadmissible. We will now concentrate on the remaining four races of the 2008 Formula One season."
McLaren team members thought Hamilton had won the event when after two final, frantic laps of slew-around dicing with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in a rain shower, Hamilton crossed the finish line ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa and BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld. Raikkonen spun off and crashed trying to retake the McLaren.
Race stewards ruled Hamilton had cut the Bus Stop Chicane, allowing him past Raikkonen, then failed to give back the position as rules require before ducking down the inside of Raikkonen to pass at the next corner, a hairpin called La Source. Having passed on Raikkonen's left while off course, Hamilton came back on track, fell back slightly to dodge behind the Ferrari then darted to Raikkonen's right to make the pass at the hairpin. Rules state drivers are obliged to stay on the racing track surface.
Typical penalty for such action would be a drive-through but because the offense happened so late in the race when a drive-through could not be assessed, a 25-second time penalty was added to Hamilton's race time.
The furor generated by the official order of finish in Belgium led to FIA officials clarifying the rule regarding such incidents before the Italian Grand Prix a week later: Drivers are to give back an illegally gained position and hold station through one corner before next attempting to pass.
The error dropped the Englishman to third behind Massa and Heidfeld in race order. It juggled the World Drivers' Championship points table to allow Massa to trail by two points heading into the Italian Grand Prix instead of eight. Massa's finish ahead of Hamilton at Monza further cut the points difference to one point.
McLaren bosses said at the time they asked FIA race director Charlie Whiting after Hamilton's chicane cut if their driver's quick drop behind Raikkonen had satisfied the rules and were told the move was OK. Problem was Whiting's race duties do not include rules judgments.
"People will probably expect me to be depressed about today's result, but that isn't me," Hamilton said. "All I want to do now is put this matter behind me and get on with what we drivers do best: racing each other. We're racers, we're naturally competitive, and we love to overtake. Overtaking is difficult, and it feels great when you manage to pull off a great passing maneuver. If it pleases the spectators and TV viewers, it's better still. So I'm disappointed, yes, but not depressed."
FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations provide that stewards may impose one of three penalties on drivers involved in incidents. They are a drive-through penalty, a 10-second time penalty, or a loss of 10 grid positions at the driver's next event. When either of the first two are imposed during the final five laps of a race or after a race, 25 seconds are added to the elapsed time of the driver involved.
The next event is the first night race in series history, this weekend in Singapore.