McLaren-Mercedes have confirmed that they intend to appeal the 25-second post-race time penalty handed out to Lewis Hamilton following the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps today.

After getting the better of Ferrari rival Kimi Raikkonen in a thrilling late-race duel as the rain began to fall around the Ardennes circuit with the majority of drivers still out on slick tyres, Hamilton went on to secure his fifth victory of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship campaign - and with it open up an eight-point cushion over closest challenger Felipe Massa.

However, following a post-race investigation by FIA stewards, a retrospective 25-second drive-through penalty was imposed upon the Briton - similar to that received by team-mate Heikki Kovalainen earlier in the race for the Finn's 'avoidable collision' with Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber - for having cut the chicane at the final corner and regained the track alongside Raikkonen, whilst battling his adversary two laps from the chequered flag [see separate story - click here].

With the stewards deeming an advantage had been gained - even though Hamilton immediately backed off again to let the Ferrari re-pass him - the penalty dropped the 23-year-old to third position in the final reckoning, handing Massa the win and seeing the Stevenage-born ace's advantage in the title chase, as he bids to secure his first F1 drivers' trophy, reduced to a mere two points with five races remaining on the calendar.

"We have no option other than to register our intention to appeal," a McLaren spokesman is quoted as having affirmed after the race by Reuters, though the news agency points out that it is uncertain whether such an appeal will be permitted under the sport's rules.

The announcement means the result of the grand prix - round 13 of 18 on the 2008 Formula 1 calendar - will now remain provisional until a hearing of the International Court of Appeal is convened.

Ferrari, while insisting it has no comment to make on the incident itself, has clarified that it did not officially protest Hamilton.

"I have often said that the race is not over until the official results are published," underlined the Scuderia's team principal Stefano Domenicali, "and that was the case today. As usual, Ferrari will not comment on the stewards' decision. After the race, we were called to the stewards and we explained our position."

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