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DATE News (chronologically)
09/07/08
f1
F1 accused of fixing race results UPDATE This is not what sport or F1 is meant to be. Winning a race should be a black-and-white business. The driver of the car that crosses the line in first place is the winner and the glory is his. End of story. It is a sacrosanct principle and any violation of it can only be considered - let alone applied - in the most extreme of circumstances and with the supported of the most overwhelming weight of evidence. The results of a grand prix should be determined, like in any other sport, in its sporting arena, not in unseen backrooms by unknown officials. For that is politics, not sport, not F1.

This is the void and guiding principle that the race stewards of the Belgian GP leapt over - by their own impetus, it should be noted, for there was no protest made by Ferrari or any of McLaren's other competitors - when they delivered their notification of 'an investigation into an incident between cars 1 and 22' just at the moment Lewis Hamilton was being physically blocked by a Spa race official from celebrating victory with his McLaren engineers. That moment in the pits - the pits, a jobsworth denying the appreciation of sporting achievement - would gain a poignant resonance as night fell. Winning the already-quickly-forgotten Greatest Grand Prix in Living Memory will be the cause of obituaries rather than celebration.

The blurring of the distinction between politics and sport in F1 had already become a popular lament long before Sunday. F1 is a spectacularly political sport. Yet rarely, if ever, has it made such a leap from one to the other based on so little. For where is the justification in stripping Hamilton of victory? No, do not misread 'where' for 'what' nor confuse the plea for justification as the herald for further debate on whether Hamilton gained an advantage after he cut the chicane. Instead, consider the lack of justification cited by the stewards, who, remaining cloaked in anonymity, are still yet to offer any explanation for their punishment other than cite the terms of the offence and announce its punishment. Not a word of insight has been forthcoming, nor a single piece of telemetry or testimony in support. 

Given their absolute abuse of sport's most absolute principle, that silence is deafening. If the decision to strip Hamilton of his victory was to be made then the evidence had to be overwhelming, so clinical that it prevented any dissent. That none has been supplied, that identifying the winner of the Belgian GP has been reduced to a matter of debate, lays the sport bare.

And the debate will rage on, as perplexing as well as an unacceptable state of affairs given that the terms of the debate are unknown. For what is it that Hamilton has been found guilty of? Observing, as per the 30-word press release the FIA filed announcing that the result of the Belgian GP was no longer the result of the Belgian GP, that Hamilton was guilty of "cutting the chicane" tells us nothing that none of us have not already seen. The stewards - and their Ferrari-supporting apologists - might well retort that they do not have to provide any commentary other than a verdict. But that misses the point and avoids entirely the repercussions and significance of a decision which makes explanation essential.

Is it that Hamilton has been punished for deliberately seeking an advantage by deliberately steering over the chicane? Or is it for inadvertently gaining an advantage by avoiding an avoidable accident? Is it for gaining an advantage but not satisfactorily or adequately surrendering it? Or is it that he has been found guilty of exploiting an advantage that was neither his by right nor no longer in his possession, deemed to have broken the spirit of the rules if not the wording?

Or is it due to motives altogether different, altogether more political? It must be, for, in the absence of all other explanation, only that suspicion can begin to explain the desecration of what was once a sport. PlanetF1

09/07/08 Formula One was plunged into new controversy yesterday when race stewards at the Belgian Grand Prix stunningly stripped Lewis Hamilton of a brilliant victory.

The stewards' decision, which will be seen by many as part of a conspiracy to rig the results to ensure a close fight in the title race, came long after the race when they hit the 23-year-old Briton and his McLaren team with a 25-second penalty.

It meant that he was pushed down to third and the race victory was handed to Ferrari's Brazilian driver Felipe Massa who had struggled to keep pace with Hamilton and defending world champion Finn Kimi Raikkonen.

Critics and paddock observers were swift in their condemnation of a decision that reeked of potential favoritism for Ferrari and seemed entirely unjustified following the most exciting race of the year.

Last year, the sport's ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA) was accused of a 'witch-hunt' against McLaren and this specter was raised again by their stewards action at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

Their decision to punish Hamilton came in relation to a move in the final stages of the race when after attempting to pass Raikkonen, who was leading, he was forced off the circuit and cut out the 'Bus Stop' chicane.

Hamilton recognized immediately that he had done this, and gained an advantage by going ahead of Raikkonen, and so he slowed to allow the Finn to re-pass him and lead as they completed the lap in teeming rain.

When they began racing again, Hamilton passed Raikkonen and went on to win, after several more battles for the lead, after the Finn crashed out.

In the immediate post-race euphoria, there were no calls for an investigation by any driver or team, but the stewards announced they would be making an official investigation.

The decision to hit Hamilton with a 'drive-through' penalty worth 25 seconds wrecked the value of the race as a spectacle and at the same time devalued Massa's win to nothing more than a hollow sporting victory gifted to him.

It will be seen by most observers as another move by the FIA artificially to keep alive the championship and make it closer by hitting McLaren with a sanction. Kuwait Times

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