Forget for a moment how the stewards reached their decision, the feeling in the media centre here is that a truly fantastic race – indeed, a great weekend after the bitterness of Spa last year – has been tainted by Formula One policing itself in a manner that makes it look incompetent.
Reading the reactions in the accompanying blogs, it seems to be that if you don’t like Lewis Hamilton, then you think the decision is correct. And if you’re not necessarily a devoted fan of Hamilton but interested in decent racing, then it was… puzzling.
The FIA is never going to win, of course. Not when it lets Ferrari off the hook for releasing Felipe Massa alongside a Force India in Valencia and then making Bruno Senna have a drive through penalty for exactly the same thing during the GP2 race here on Saturday.
The argument in Hamilton’s case is that he did not back off enough as the Ferrari came by and gained enough momentum to retake the lead going into La Source. If that was so, then how come the Ferrari was in front of the McLaren – I mean, dead ahead of Hamilton – as they reached the braking area?
It seemed to me that Kimi simply outfumbled himself and Lewis went by. McLaren’s technology apparently shows that Hamilton was 6 kph slower than Raikkonen as they crossed the start/finish line, which is 250 metres from La Source. Where is the ‘advantage’ in that?
If the overtaking move had occurred just before the actual finish, and Hamilton had dived up the inside to do it, then there might have been a case to answer. But, the way things turned out, Raikkonen actually managed to retake the lead when they came across the spinning Williams of Nico Rosberg half way round the next lap. So where was Hamilton’s alleged advantage at the end of all that? It was Raikkonen who ultimately spun off and presented Hamilton with the lead.
It would be good to find out exactly what sort of information the stewards had at their disposal when reaching a decision which, one leading sponsor told me this evening, makes big company board rooms question the wisdom of being associated with a sport that appears to shoot itself in the foot.
I’m just sorry that we should be discussing this rather than a fantastic motor race on one of the world’s great race tracks.