Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Hamilton fortunate to escape Shanghai penalty

Lap 54 of the Chinese Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel is under pressure as he comes under attack from Lewis Hamilton who is on fresher tyres. Down the back straight the McLaren makes the move on the inside before holding a defensive line into the final corner. Vettel looks for the slipstream as they proceed onto the pit straight and it's the following seconds i want to look back on:

Hamilton comes out of the final corner on the right hand side

Hamilton then makes a deliberate turn to the left to the middle of the track to prevent Vettel from getting a tow but he follows the path of the McLaren

Hamilton then pulls back over to the right hand side, Vettel follows but then decides to go to the left

As Vettel goes to the racing line, Hamilton drifts across to the middle of the track and holds the position into Turn 1

The big issue for me here is the second move back towards the pitwall. That was really pushing the limits of the 'one move' rule. You are meant to leave a car width and technically Hamilton did leave a car width between him and the pitwall but you can see that the white line is closer so if the car width is being measured between the McLaren and the white line which defines the limit of the track then Hamilton was breaking the rule. It's not a clear cut issue and the way the stewards interpret it is key. At the very least, the 2008 world champion should have been receiving a reprimand.

I feel Hamilton is very fortunate to avoid a penalty for this as it was no worse than what he did when defending against Fernando Alonso in Sepang last year and he received a 20 second time penalty for that. It only cost him one position that day but a 20 second penalty on Sunday would have resulted in him dropping from 3rd to 13th. Perhaps the stewards felt that would have been too harsh but there was nothing from the FIA about the incident being looked at after the race so perhaps it wasn't even reviewed by the stewards.

I've been impressed by Hamilton so far this season. He may not be in 100% attack mode but he has produced good laps in every Q3 so far and produced tidy race performances, resulting in three podium finishes. His racecraft seem to be in good shape and he has learnt a lot from the woes of 2011 but perhaps his trait of weaving is something he still has to eradicate from his driving

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