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Page last updated at 21:12 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 22:12 UK

McLaren discover date for appeal

By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport at Monza

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren dispute the lead during the Belgian Grand Prix
Hamilton re-passed Raikkonen right after giving him the lead back

McLaren's appeal against the penalty that stripped Lewis Hamilton of victory in last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix will be heard on 22 September.

The Englishman was handed a 25-second penalty for gaining an advantage for cutting a chicane while battling with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

The decision dropped him from first to third place and handed the win to his main rival, Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

Returning Formula One chief Max Mosley said there was no bias against McLaren.

"Any suggestion there is a bias for or against any team or driver is completely untrue. Absolutely not," the International Automobile Federation (FIA) president told the Reuters news agency.

"I'd love to see Lewis win the championship," Mosley added in an interview with British newspaper journalists.

"It doesn't mean we are going to help him or hinder him - we are going to be completely neutral."

Mosley was speaking at the Italian Grand Prix as he returned to the F1 scene for the first time since winning a legal battle over claims an orgy he took part in had Nazi overtones.

Hamilton's penalty reduced his advantage over the Brazilian from eight points to two.

The appeal, which will be heard six days before the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, is on the grounds that Hamilton had immediately ceded the position back to Raikkonen.

The stewards based their decision on a belief that Hamilton had not fully ceded any advantage he gained from cutting the corner when he overtook Raikkonen at the subsequent corner.

The case will be heard by governing body the FIA's International Court of Appeal at the organisation's headquarters in Paris.

The stewards take their decisions and they have been very strict this year. They are very hard but consistent.

Renault's Fernando Alonso
Before the appeal can be heard, the court will decide whether it is even admissible as there is some debate about whether the rules allow for teams to appeal against a time penalty.

If the appeal is permitted, the court will have to decide whether Hamilton surrendered any advantage he gained by cutting the Bus Stop chicane when he let Raikkonen back past him on the pit straight.

It may also examine the manoeuvre at the chicane itself, assessing whether Hamilton - who was half a car length behind Raikkonen at the time he veered off the track - could have avoided contact in another way.

Hamilton continues to insist that he did nothing wrong and that he did not deserve a penalty.

He feels he had surrendered his advantage by letting Raikkonen past on the pit straight, and he insists that he only went off the track because he had to.

"I never leave the circuit unless it is absolutely necessary. In that case I left the circuit to avoid a collision," said Hamilton.

"I think if it was somewhere like Valencia, where there was a wall, it could have been pretty dangerous. I would have hoped that Kimi would have been more fair and realised that I would need a bit more space. But this is racing - I would go for the move, hope it worked and if it didn't, it didn't."

But most of his rivals do not agree, arguing that although the penalty was harsh, he did commit the offence a view widely held within F1.

His former team-mate Fernando Alonso, now at Renault, said: "Lewis had an advantage by doing that. If he did the chicane properly, he would never have crossed the line one metre behind Kimi. You lose five or ten metres and then you cannot overtake in Turn 1.

"We always said we would give back the position, but at the same time as giving back the position you cannot take advantage of what you did one corner before. If you give back the position, take the slipstream and overtake the guy into the next corner you still have an advantage because of what you did.

"These escape roads are just for safety. You need to imagine that before there would have been a wall, and if there is a wall you cannot use that part of the track."

Andrew Benson - BBC Sport

Alonso added: "There were two or three laps to the end, many more corners to overtake at with the condition of the circuit. It was clear for me that it was not the right moment to overtake. The stewards take their decisions and they have been very strict this year. They are very hard but consistent."

McLaren may also bring up in the appeal their conversations with race control.

Their team manager Dave Ryan asked race director Charlie Whiting whether he felt that Hamilton had done enough in handing back the position to satisfy the stewards.

McLaren say that Whiting told them they were OK.

But there are differing accounts of that conversation, with other suggestions that Whiting was less definitive.

The final decision on whether a penalty is warranted is not Whiting's, it is the stewards'.

Triple world champion Niki Lauda has described the stewards' decision as "the worst judgement in F1 history".

"It is the most perverted judgement I have ever seen," said the Austrian, who won the title for both Ferrari and McLaren. "It's absolutely unacceptable when three functionaries (the stewards) influence the championship like this."

The debate around the eligibility of the appeal centres on article 152 of the FIA's sporting code.

Stewards deemed that Hamilton's offence was worthy of a drive-through penalty, which is "not susceptible to appeal" according to the article.

The rules dictate that a drive-through penalty imposed in the last five laps of the race has to be converted into a 25-second addition to the driver's race time.

Hamilton has incurred the wrath of the stewards on other occasions already this season, although there are a number of other drivers who have suffered the same number of penalties as him.

His first punishment was in the second race of the season in Malaysia, where he and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen were handed five-place grid penalties for impeding other drivers in qualifying.

Hamilton was then demoted 10 places for the French Grand Prix after driving into the back of Raikkonen in the pit lane in the previous race in Canada.

In the French race he was given a drive-through penalty for cutting a chicane and in Valencia last month he incurred a 5,000 euros fine for being late to a news conference.

see also
'Vindicated' Mosley returns to F1
13 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Ferrari keep Raikkonen until 2010
12 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton finds little support
11 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton passed too soon - Massa
09 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton stripped of Belgian win
07 Sep 08 |  Formula One
As it happened - Belgian Grand Prix
07 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Belgian Grand Prix photos
07 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton feeling heat of F1 fight
18 Jun 08 |  Formula One

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