Drivers say stripping Hamilton of Belgian GP win was harsh

Updated: September 12, 2008, 8:55 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MILAN, Italy -- McLaren's attempt to reinstate Lewis Hamilton as Belgian Grand Prix winner will be heard by Formula One's court of appeal in Paris on Sept. 22, the governing FIA said on Friday.

Hamilton was penalized for gaining an unfair advantage after the McLaren driver cut across a chicane to take the lead from Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in the dramatic closing stages of Sunday's race. Although Hamilton allowed Raikkonen to go back in front, the British driver overtook the lead soon after for good.

Some of Hamilton's rival F1 drivers said the penalty was harsh.

If we can't overtake then there is no point in racing. It won't be a race -- it will be a train.

--Lewis Hamilton

"The penalty was a bit harsh as that did not have such a big effect on the actual race result in the end," Williams driver Nico Rosberg said Thursday from the Italian GP.

Raikkonen crashed on the penultimate lap, so Felipe Massa of Ferrari was given the victory despite finishing nearly 15 seconds back. Along with many other drivers, Massa said Hamilton had benefited from the maneuver.

"He took an advantage by cutting the chicane. You can ask other drivers how many overtaking maneuvers you see there -- no overtaking," said the Brazilian driver, who trails overall leader Hamilton by just two points in the championship standings. "Going from the last corner to the first corner is such a small straight, so he took an advantage, that's clear."

The other three drivers in the official race news conference agreed that Hamilton's move was wrong, but that it was excessive to strip him of the race victory.

"Maybe the penalty was a bit hard, but I think he's made the same mistake twice: He's done it in Magny Cours and he's done it again in Spa," Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Bourdais said. "I don't really understand why there's been such a mess around it. There's a rule book and everybody has to obey the same thing."

Jarno Trulli of Toyota agreed.

"The penalty was quite big but I'm not a steward and I cannot decide what kind of penalty should be given," Trulli said.

McLaren has appealed the decision and Hamilton defended his driving style at Monza.

"It is so difficult to overtake in F1 as it is, and when it does happen people get very excited. Surely if we drive around and don't overtake it won't be as exciting and people won't watch," the 23-year-old Hamilton said. "If we can't overtake then there is no point in racing. It won't be a race -- it will be a train."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

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