Lewis Hamilton has responded to Ferrari and Fernando Alonso's accusations of ill-treatment during last weekend's European Grand Prix by insisting that the rules are the same for everyone and 'we all have to accept them' – and if anyone was unfairly victimised, he suggests, it was him.
Hamilton received a drive-through penalty in Valencia for illegally overtaking the safety car – a marginal judgement, but one that subsequent slow-motion footage proved to be the correct one – but afterwards Alonso complained vociferously about what he viewed as the comparative leniency of the punishment given the infraction committed, and the length of time that it took the stewards to reach their decision, with the upshot being that having himself remained dutifully behind the safety car as per the letter of the regulations, he
was actually inadvertently penalised far more than his former team-mate [see separate story – click here
Despite the Spaniard's protests, however, the McLaren-Mercedes star remains unrepentant and insistent that his second place at the chequered flag was entirely merited. Alonso wound up eighth.
“I don't remember too much about it, to be honest,” Hamilton reflected. “When I came down the straight, I was accelerating; I didn't see the safety car coming out and then as I came round Turn One, literally as I got to the safety car line all of a sudden I saw the safety car coming out and pretty much alongside me, so I backed off and went across the line as it did that.
“I was able to push until safety car line two, I think – between the two lines you can go fast – and at that point I thought I had passed the safety car. He was already behind, so I continued. I haven't watched the race, but as far as I was concerned, I had passed the safety car line one so I thought I was okay – at least that's how I saw it. Whenever a safety car comes out, it's difficult to compute all the information. There are all these beeps in your ear, and lights flashing on your dashboard too, so it's all a bit complicated.
“When the team told me I had a drive-through penalty, I made time by pushing as hard as I could, and was able to increase the gap a bit to the guys behind – I think my general pace was quite a bit better than a lot of the people behind me. We were competitive from the beginning. I took my penalty – it's quite a long time to spend at 60km/h in the pit-lane – and I came out second. I don't see how that's unfair – it's racing, those are the rules and we all have to accept them.”
Despite a touch with pole-sitter and eventual race-winner Sebastian Vettel shortly after the starting lights had gone out that left him with a damaged front wing until his pit-stop and a minor vibration for the remainder of the grand prix, Hamilton concentrated on 'looking after the car' early on as he and his Red Bull Racing adversary indulged in a high-speed game of cat-and-mouse at the front of the field.
Following repairs during his stop under the safety car, the Briton acknowledged that 'my pace was much stronger', even if he had scant hope of passing his quarry around a circuit whose characteristics mean overtaking is very much at a premium, leading him ultimately to resolve not to risk any 'silly gambles' but rather focus on 'bringing the car home in one piece'. And to do that and still retain the runner-up position – and the advantage in the title chase heading to his home outing at Silverstone in a week-and-a-half's time – is encouraging indeed, he affirmed.
“I think it is just very, very positive to be leading both championships for myself and Jenson and also for the team,” the 25-year-old concluded. “We've been working so hard all year, and I think the result clearly shows the effort that we have been putting in. It is great that we are now getting the results that we deserve, but it is going to be interesting going to Silverstone. Hopefully we will be able to close the gap to the Red Bulls and really challenge them.”