Was Lewis Hamilton’s Drive-Thru Penalty Fair?

Was Lewis Hamilton’s Drive-Thru Penalty Fair?

On the opening lap of the French Grand Prix, McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton made a move on the Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel and passed on the left at high speed. For Lewis though, his speed was too much for the amount of tarmac left and he ran over the green run-off area. From the TV angle, it looked as though Lewis had completely passed Vettel but the incident was deemed to have been Hamilton gaining a place unfairly. Thus, Lewis received a drive-thru penalty. Was it a just and fair penalty?

The voting form is open as are the comments…



  • FIA really hates McLaren, and it shows in how they breath down their necks all the time. Much bigger things have gone totally unpunished before. FIA has done its part for F1 now, and a new series is needed to get rid of the money squeezing, power crazy Max circus that FIA has become. Lewis openly criticised Max, so he can’t win this year. As simple as that.

  • Rules are rules, and Hamilton took an advantage from the chicane. The reason why it looks unfair is because the stewards are liable to not punish other instances of the same infraction. However, by the rulebook, the stewards had to punish Lewis, and as Brundle said, this was the most lenient punishment open to the stewards.

  • Charly Whiting the race director makes the decision not the FIA’s staff.

    As far as I know Charly has got a very good reputation amongst the teams and the drivers.

    I am personnaly fed up with these drivers (there are many, but Lewis is not the last) not staying on the track. If I was in charge I will put very severe penalties for racing outside the track area. using the kerb is already too much for me but Ok let’s not take this into consideration.

    Last but not least the drivers fighting for the championship must be more severely controlled. I believe, for example, that Lewis hitting Kimi in the pitlane deserve a stronger punishment than the same incident involving say Coulthard. Kimi was deprived of an opportunity to win a race, David wouldn’t have been…

    So I suggest removing points as a fair penalty. Is is fair because it doesn’t involve the future results of the driver. Lewis will have started this race from P3 and probably could have scored 6 to 8 points… So taking 2 or 3 pts last time he would be better off today…

  • “The reason why it looks unfair is because the stewards are liable to not punish other instances of the same infraction.”

    Ehh, that is why it “is” unfair. Not why it “looks” unfair…

    When it comes to using areas outside the track I think it is fair if a likely collision is avoided.

    Pretty much the only excitement in the race (a driver on a mission) was ruined by FIAs usual lousy touch. They have no feeling for what racing is any more.

  • “So I suggest removing points as a fair penalty. Is is fair because it doesn’t involve the future results of the driver.”

    Yes, today’s system sucks big time, as it ruins the next race for the fans. After all, racing is nothing without fans watching it. FIA should also ask themselves if a static red light is good enough with today’s F1 cars (given the pretty massive information load on the driver during a pit stop). I suggest they move to rapidly flashing bright LED-lights. But I suppose FIA can’t be doing anything badly, by definition.

  • Patrick, what I meant by that statement is that it is the non-punishment of some other instances of drivers missing parts of the track to gain an advantage that is unfair, because in those cases the rules are broken without consequence.

    Since Lewis broke the rules, and those rules were put in place for good reason (and he doesn’t have any good excuse for ignoring those rules, such as an imminent crash) punishing him for doing so cannot be classified as unfair. It’s only in the context of injustices committed at other times that this specific decision looked unfair. If the stewards consistently followed the rulebook concerning cars missing bits of track to their advantage, then Lewis’ punishment would have looked fair.

  • Looks like it was good enough for Kimi and Robert -the red traffic light I mean- πŸ˜‰

    Did Lewis has some sort of handicap? It seems like he is irrestibly attracted by the back of other cars… That is really amazing, I believed that drivers were watching in front of them, not sideways looking at the pretty babes in the pits or anything else πŸ˜‰

    In the beginning of the season Fernando was accused of “test braking” Hamilton I thought the whole fans community was about to start a war! fortunately enough it was discovered that FA had no responsability whatsover…thanks God for that!

    Today in the first lap again Lewis went straight into Heikki’s but nobody talks about it… and the fantastic ITV crew finds a good excuse πŸ˜‰ Just wonder of what will have happened if it was say… Alonso in the back of Lewis πŸ˜‰

  • Patrik, Lewis was punished for gaining “unfair advantage”.

    Had he let the other driver retake his position he will not have been punished. As you can see this has nothing to do with “avoiding an accident”. The rules are what they are but true fans are supposed to know these rules.

  • Ago, being behind others obviously affects the ability to monitor the red light. Many, many drivers have missed the red light under far less pressure than the all-in-at-once situation Hamilton messed up. It’s a bit of a lottery it seems, and I don’t see any drawback on improving the red lights to higher standards.

    Hamilton never said he was break tested. Argument closed. (What ITV says is irrelevant)

    People generally don’t talk much about cars in the same team messing up for each other. It only hurts the team. The big, big amazing exception was when FIA involved itself in McLaren’s internal affairs after Alonson screwed over the whole team (FIA threatened McLaren not to disadvantage Alonson. In reality McLaren is free to do what they want, but FIA cant keep their hands away.) FIA is just putting its fingers WAY too deep into the pie nowdays -acting as control freaks. The sport suffers from this.

    The overtaking: Lewis was way ahead when he went off. He had a slow car in front of him that he clearly was afraid he might go into. I still maintain that FIA just ruins racing by enforcing “no overtaking” on a pretty useless racing track.

  • Lewis went off and cut the left half of the chicane because he had too much speed and couldn’t stay on the track. If he hadn’t had too much speed, he would’ve been unable to pass Vettel on the right half. In other words, passing Vettel wasn’t possible at that time without going outside the track. Therefore, he gained an unfair advantage by cutting the chicane.

    However, I feel that a drive-through is too harsh a penalty for such an infraction.

  • Patrik : (sorry to pick on you again mate;-) There are millions of fans in the world and for many of them “the man on a mission” today was :

    – Alonso trying to get a podium finish. (Alonso fans + spanish people)

    – Kimi to win the race after 2 missed opportunities (Kimi’s fans+italians + finns)

    – Robert Kubica to win 2 races in a row (Robert’s fans + Poles)

    And i guess there are many other possibilities…

    The world is big, really big and many people would like the young and irrestible Lewis not to win too quickly too many races… Some even say he was very lucky to sit in a McLaren last year with a very experienced double world champion as team-mate πŸ˜‰ But surely this is a big lie πŸ˜‰

    That is the beauty of F1 20 drivers and 20 kinds of fans (plus the manufacturer’s fans… I fancy to support Ferrari myself ;-)so there is always somebody happy whatever is happening… Let’s rejoice all together!

  • Ago,
    The problem is that FIA is promoting BORING “racing”. There is no question that Lewis’s moves were the highlights in a pretty boring race. Everyone likes a fast car cutting through the mid field cars -no matter who is driving the car. Not even trying to overtake seems to be the “safe” way to please FIA, and a sure way to keep digging the grave of the more and more boring Formula 1.

  • There is no question… for you πŸ˜‰ I agree with that.

    About the difficulty to overtake you probably noticed is has more to do with the aerodynamic concepts than with cutting corners and overtaking using the outside of the track. A car could run on the Monaco’s tunnel’s ceiling because it generates a down-force that can let it do so…. ridiculous!

    Let’s go back to real cars with no limitations on the engines (apart from cylindrate and may be consumption), no silly aerodynamic devices, no pit stop and slick tyres. No strategy just driving !

    Let’s race ! but use the track all the track but only the track.

  • Ago,
    Seems we agree then that today’s F1 cars are boring. As to being on the track I think it should be bad enough to go off the track that there won’t be needed any special rules. Thinking about how FIA is acting today, I remembered another incident: Schumacher took out Damon Hill in 1994, Adelaide, in order to secure his world title. Did FIA punish his obviously deliberate move? No! Would FIA really let something like that pass today? I doubt it. So, my point is, that in general FIA interferes a LOT more today, leaving less down to racing and driver tactics. Today a genuine mistake is punished as if it was deliberate (example: Hamilton’s pitlane crash), and earlier years even obviously deliberate (from a tactical point of view) moves passed if they couldn’t be proven to be deliberate.
    Perhaps it is a nannying attitude of older growing FIA members towards seemingly younger and younger drivers.

  • For me the penalty was marginal at best. Given Lewis was way past Vettel at the point of the incident the question for the stewards is: Was Hamilton going too fast and therefore go past Vettel or did he go wide of the corner because he was on the marbles. Tough call but I don’t see how you can prove the former and therefore the penalty was dubious. Either way McLaren should have been on the phone to the FIA to ask their opinion

  • @John Beaner: He passed Vettel and went back to the track AFTER. That is the reason for the penalty, nothing else. Even the smart guys fron ITV have seen and said that immediately πŸ˜‰

    About the fairness or not of a penalty based on the fact that everybody in the same situation gets it or not I am asking you all a question :

    – Can I attack a bank and when they catch me I will explain the police that plenty of robbers were never caught so I should not be punished else my friends from blogf1 will protest because it is not fair…. Fairness? what are you talking about?

    Fairness is when you deserve the punishment not when everybody gets it !

    @Patrik: The truth is that on modern circuits you can get an advantage from “leaving” the track. The day this will not be possible I will go with your statement. Let’s put gravel all around the track I am pretty sure these bright guys will avoid it because they’ll know the penalty is too high…. About Lewis in the pitlane in Canada I hope it was not on purpose! but does this changes the fault? Put yourself in Kimi’s shoes for a minute.. Now tell me what you think…

    I know exactly what Senna will have done in this situation;-)

  • In sport, as in a court of law, fairness implies that rules are applied in the same way to everyone. Fairness has little to do with IF a rule can be applied in theory, but everything to do with what is praxis.

    Sure, in life chance let’s some get away with things because the rule enforcer misses the offence. In F1, however, the whole race is being watched pretty darn carefully.

    Let’s say Vettel had had a moment when he had gone off the track, recovered and continued in front of Hamilton. Would Vettel then have been given a drive-through penalty? I doubt it. It generally has to be a more obvious situation than what we have seen today.

  • Ok I’ll go with that. Let’s not talk of what Vettel might have done or not. Give me some examples in the 8 last GPs where a driver was not punished for doing something illegal. Not joking just a question, I watched the GP on TV I might have not seen something. About this specific case (going off the track while overtaking) I cannot remember a single case of somebody taking advantage.

    PS: Technically fairness is not applying the rules in “the same way”, as you wrote it, to everyone. Fairness is obviously about circumstances. If you are caught speed driving taking your son to the hospital won’t be treated as if you were having a go just to see how fast your car is πŸ˜‰

  • If you are caught speed driving taking your son to the hospital won’t be treated as if you were having a go just to see how fast your car is.

    Have you ever been stopped by UK police? Good luck with that excuse, sonny-Jim! πŸ˜€ (I jest, of course.)

  • Was the penalty fair? Yes, I think so. But I only say that because it’s what the rules state.

    The fact that he got the penalty was the problem. Vettel (?) spent more time on the apron in Canada than anywhere else and not an eyelid was batted. Hamilton was really going for it – yeah he was ragged, but it was fun watching him going for it in an Alesi-esque red mist – and once again, unprofessional stewarding ruined the race (or was it professional stewarding for once?).

    When Massa and Raikkonen, or anyone else for that matter, goes skating over the turn 1 kerb at Monza this year, no-one will be looking. If Lewis or Heikki do it, wham, stop-go, public execution, whatever they can manage.

    Lewis made a dumb error in Canada and got the walloping he deserved (I note Kimi was not reprimanded for his pitlane antics, nor his team for an unsafe release) but Lewis’ pass on Vettel, while marginal, was not a punishable offence going on past efforts.

    Once again, there needs to be a roving, revolving crew of professional stewards. If the shambles that is cricket can manage it with Test umpires, then FIA can surely spare a few bob from the unjust $100m they’ve got stashed in the mattress. Or perhaps they could review the decision they made on Renault and get them to pay for it…

  • I can’t believe Lewis was “ok” with the Canada penalty, considering Kimi got off completely free in Monaco.

    As for France – c’mon, he passed a guy off-track and didn’t give the place back. Pretty cut-and-dry. Sorry if it looks like he’s being picked on, but I think he is starting to unravel.

    I am a McLaren/Williams fan, but it is becoming clear that Alonso was a good umbrella for Lewis to hid under. Ron should have had more foresight and retained Alonso (and protected Alonso’s ego a bit better) to groom Lewis a bit more. This season is shining the light on the fact that Lewis is great talent, but still raw. Here it’s midseason and the lack of an experienced driver at McLaren is starting to show.

  • @Ago … you cannot tell from that camera angle – no way, and that’s my point!! According to The Times there are other camera angles that are very conclusive — fair enough but why not show them!

  • bill,

    McLaren are “ok” with everything FIA throws at them, just as any person being bullied by a much bigger bully can’t do anything about it. $100m fine, meddling in their internal affairs, rules applied to them but not to others, and so on. Anyone who thinks F1 is being run fairly and professionally needs to pull their head up from the sand.

  • “When Massa and Raikkonen, or anyone else for that matter, goes skating over the turn 1 kerb at Monza this year, no-one will be looking. If Lewis or Heikki do it, wham, stop-go, public execution, whatever they can manage”

    But of course, because Charlie Whitting will transform into a one sided Italian Ferrari fan and strike down McLaren since that is his mandate in life…come on people, lets get off it here. Most of the penalties McLaren have incurred this year have been based on very poor team decisions. Driving like someone who should be put into an old folks home on your cool down laps and affecting other drivers = SHOULD BE PENALIZED, Driving into the back of a car in pit lane due to not obeying the red light = SHOULD BE PENALIZED (which is much different then a pure racing incident such as Kimi in Monaco), and cutting the track to maintain an overtaking maneuver (notice I said “maintain”, not “make”, since Lewis would have had a big off if he didn’t use the off road to maintain such a silly maneuver) is a penalty, and SHOULD BE PENALIZED. He had the option to let Vettel back through, like many other drivers have done on other tracks, but whether it was Lewis or McLaren, they decided to take the chance of being penalized and keep going.

    And to these “play the victim” McLaren marks who say these are all against McLaren, might I remind you, the rules have affected many driver from many different teams over the years. But of course cases like Massa being black flagged last year in Canada don’t count, right? And how can this team NOT expect to have a close eye on them, last year they got caught cheating. Consider this McLaren’s probation period…if only they could behave nicely!

  • Minus the multiple swirve defence, the fact this was 10 years ago, is this the closest example to a driver not being penalised?

  • Well the clip was great, probably a better example of Damon Hill defending one too many lines, and probably why it was seen as a “play on” situation. You should post this in the case against Trulli’s defence of thrid on Heikki though, as Trulli defended very hard, just like Damon did in that clip.

  • It just happens that the camera angle on the Damon offence above made it clear and concise by today’s rules. Although at the time, from someone who watched it live, it was a ‘bookable’ offence. I believe even the commentators (in Britain) said so at the time. But it’s worth bearing in mind, as already mentioned, it was about 10 years ago.

    In fact, I’m now reminded of Damon’s defence of his leading position in Hungary in 1997. Brundle (I believe) said ‘he must have an electrical problem and the swerving is Damon trying to reconnect the wires’. I don’t think Villeneuve saw it that way as he scuffed the grass when he went past. I think Damon’s saving grace was no accident, Villeneuve won and no harm was done. And let’s face it, if I was leading in a ’97 Arrows, I would have done the same. πŸ˜‰

  • Hi guys ! So when what is the last time somebody cutting a corner and taking advantage was not punished?? Still waiting for an answer πŸ˜‰

    Patrik: If you don’t do anything wrong the FIA cannot pickup on you, Can they? The “espionnage” affair was never raised by the FIA but by Ferrari, as McLaren did later for Renault.

    You can discuss about the penalties being too high (and I might agree with you on some…) but I believe there is not much to say about the offences…

    About the penalty given to Lewis (but that was said on ITV) it was the smallest out of 3 possible. you can see this for yourself in the F1 sporting regulations available on the FIA site in a pdf version

  • So when what is the last time somebody cutting a corner and taking advantage was not punished?

    Sorry Ago, I completely missed your question from before. Your answer? The 2008 French Grand Prix. But it isn’t the incident you (or anyone else) are thinking of, I suspect.

    It happened in qualifying. And I’m going to stop here to clarify a few things first. Yes, it happened in qualifying (and therefore not a race), but it was not spoken of much and no wrists were slapped. So arguably, it didn’t happen. But needless to say, it ‘happened’ in qualifying. Was it Raikkonen or was it Lewis who leant on the apron a bit too much? I think it was Raikkonen, and the UK commentators said that he would do well to make another flying run in case that lap was taken away from him.

    Of course, I’m doing no good to the argument by highlighting a possible un-penalised Ferrari incident. But there you go. I can’t remember if it was worth a penalty, so in all honesty, it probably wasn’t. And if Kimi set a faster time next time around then it would have been a moot penalty. But, it was another grey area that went by largely unnoticed in the eyes of the stewards, going by the [lack of] media attention it received as a somewhat crude standard.

  • Hi Oliver I am pretty sure plenty of these happen. I was asking specifically about race and somebody taking advantage (OVERTAKING somebody) from cutting a corner or a chicane….

    Oh btw I remember very recently a guy taking a drive through penalty for having his wheels mounted a few seconds after the 3mn-before-race time.

    Surely this is nothing it didn’t impede anybody so it was probably a McLaren boy again??? Nope it was… Kimi Raikkonen πŸ˜‰ Short memories sometimes…

  • The last time someone cut the corner with advantage and not penalised in a race that I can remember off the top of my head was Ferrari at Fuji 2007. Both Ferrari drivers found out that the run-off was faster than the actual track, so they were regularly using it to get through the field. The most memorable of these was Massa taking Kubica for the final podium spot on the last lap They weren’t punished or even investigated for this.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the FIA are just plain incompetent. There may be a Ferrari blind spot in there, but the FIA behaviour can be almost as easily explained simply on the “incompetence” tag without invoking bias as well.

  • Good call on the Kimi penalty in Monaco Ago, I completely forgot that one! It was the first time I’ve ever seen someone penalised for that. Unlike the overtaking mavouver by Lewis and even his crash in the pitlane, Kimi’s offence could have easily been brushed under the carpet and nobody would have known. Yet somehow the FIA has a “Ferrari blind spot”?

  • Caleb, by “may be a Ferrari blind spot”, I mean there is a reduced tendency to notice infractions by them, not a complete ignorance of them. I can’t remember anyone breaking that rule before for them to be penalised for it.

  • Is it a blind spot from the FIA or a sustained attention by Ferrari detractors ? πŸ˜‰

    Let’s be a little bit provocative here: Since we are kids we always try to excuse our friends -and ourselves- by giving an example of somebody else doing something equivalent, if not worse indeed and not being punished…

    The french have a saying for that “voir la paille dans l’oeil du voisin et ne pas voir la poutre dans le sien” litteraly “to see a straw in your neighbour’s eye but not to see a beam in your owm eye” πŸ˜‰ I love it!

    About Japan now : (1) Kubica cuts the line and forces Massa to go into the grass (2) next corner Kubica cuts the corner and overtakes Massa (he then gives the place back) (3) Kubica again in the next corner (right) forces Massa to go off the track and then comes back. Strictly speaking obviously Massa has not “taken advantage” from these moves as he was slowed each time by being outside the track. Under no circumstance did he used the outside to take advantage that was not the case of Lewis last sunday…

    However I agree with you that these moves deserved to be investigated and I don’t know if they were (I think not). I believe at 2 races from the end and in a fight for 6th place between 2 drivers not involved in the chase for the title and taken into account the fact in was very entertaining the stewards didn’t say a thing… And none of the team complained… In France STR rang Charlie immediately…

  • “In France STR rang Charlie immediately”

    Did they? In that case they really are full of it at STR… Slow car with no part in the real race being all over the place.

  • I’m sure STR will be very pleased to read this. Probably one of the best comment I have ever read on the subject. Simply brilliant.

    What? Of course I am joking! what else would you expect πŸ˜‰

  • Ago, the logical extension of that statement is that if drivers are not in contention for the championship, then they can break all the rules they want. Which indicates incompetence on the FIA stewards’ part. This governance review had better be comprehensive and properly self-reflective on the FIA’s part…

    It’s definitely not a matter of entertainment, because Alonso’s electrifying qualifying lap at Monza 2006 was penalised, even though the alternative for him would have been to nullify the lap, thereby reducing entertainment factor.

    And that’s aside from the fact that both Ferrari drivers had been testing the run-off areas all afternoon and had discovered the speed improvement on them before the Kubica-Massa battle. Had Massa complied with the regulations, he’d have had to cede the corners to Kubica.

  • Alionara I am giving my opinion, mot stating what is right or wrong. I cannot be held responsible for what the stewards did or didn’t do πŸ™‚

    So my statement doesn’t have to be logically, or not, extended. I have said exactly what I though could be an explanation. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I don’t know if the rest of your post is about Japan 07 but as far as this GP is concerned I watched the last lap this morning and I can assure you that it all started by Kubica “closing the door” and Massa had no choice: it was out or crash. I have the imnages available if you question that. May I remind you that in my answer I agreed with you on the fact that this incident should have been investigated anyway because entertaining or not it looked dangerous.

    … So I won’t argue with you on that subject as I share your point of view πŸ˜‰

  • I came back to F1 recently as I was told it had gotten more exiting and the cars harder to drive because of traction control being removed. But its fairly obvious to me that the days of F1 being an exiting sport are gone and any driver attempting to do more than follow in procession is to be penalised.

    The regulations and the fans seem determined to dull down the sport even more than it was with complaints about Raikkonen crashing in the rain, Hamilton missing corners, and god knows who doing god knows what to actually make the race exciting. The only remotely exciting thing about the french race was watching Hamilton trying claw his way back to point, and trying to figure out if Raikkonenes exhaust would fly off. Im surprised they didnt ban Raikkonen for 2 races for driving without exhaust pipes. My guess is somewhere some F1 fans are asking for his execution for daring to drive with a scratch on his car.

    I never though I would say this, but bring back the good old days of Schummy driving over opponents cars to take them out of the race. He may have been a rabid cheat but at least he put up a fight and was more interesting than watching paint dry.

    Marray Walker got out in time I think.

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