Lewis Hamilton has insisted that he sees nothing wrong in the incident that earned him a 25-second post-race penalty and saw him stripped of his stunning victory in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps today.
The McLaren-Mercedes ace – whose team has made clear its intention to appeal the controversial punishment [see separate story – click here
] – triumphed in the race held around the spectacular Ardennes circuit after getting the better of Ferrari rival Kimi Raikkonen in a thrilling duel over the closing laps, as the rain began to fall with the majority of drivers still out on-track on slick tyres.
The 23-year-old was subsequently demoted back to third place, however, after FIA stewards deemed he had gained an unfair advantage in cutting the chicane when he drove across the grass at the Bus-Stop at the end of lap 42 to avoid running into Raikkonen.
After obeying a team radio command to allow the Finn to re-pass him, Hamilton – with significantly greater confidence and momentum out of the two in the tricky conditions – then dived up the inside into La Source just moments later to grab the lead back again.
“I left him enough room, yet he picked up more pace going into the corner, and drove me as wide as he possibly could,” the British star explained afterwards, adding 'absolutely not' when asked whether he believed he had done anything to merit the penalty and stressing his conviction that the punishment is 'absolutely wrong'.
“I was accelerating so that I didn't lose too much ground, because I thought that would be unfair. I didn't want to wait until he'd flown past because we were still racing.
“Eventually I could see him accelerating and I knew, ok, this is alright, so I began to accelerate, but slowly. I don't believe I was full throttle; I was waiting for him to accelerate past which he did. That was a great fight and I don't think there was anything wrong there.”
Hamilton was clearly shocked by the decision to hand victory to Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who thanks to the penalty now sits just two points behind his McLaren rival in the battle for the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship laurels. The Brazilian himself controversially escaped a time penalty in the European Grand Prix in Valencia a fortnight ago, after his pit crew released him into the path of Force India's Adrian Sutil during his second stop.
“What more could I do?” Hamilton protested. “I don't know what more I could have done. This is motor racing and if there's a penalty, then there's something wrong, but you know what they're like, so we will see.”
“In our opinion, Lewis did not achieve this win because of an illegitimate advantage,” agreed Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug.
Ferrari refused to comment on the matter.