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Page last updated at 07:21 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 08:21 UK

Hamilton passed too soon - Massa

Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton shake hands after the Belgian Grand Prix
Massa (left) inherited victory after Hamilton was penalised

Lewis Hamilton paid the price for passing Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen too soon after cutting a chicane, according to his title rival Felipe Massa.

McLaren driver Hamilton was stripped of victory in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix after being handed a 25-second penalty.

Massa said Hamilton was "maybe a bit too optimistic" in taking the lead.

"If Lewis had taken the chicane correctly, he would never have been able to pass Kimi on the very short straight that follows it," he said.

Formula One rules forbid drivers from gaining an advantage by cutting a chicane.

Hamilton passed leader Raikkonen by missing the Bus Stop chicane with just over two laps to go at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. He handed the position back to the Finn, as dictated by the rules, only to immediately pass him again going into the next corner.

The stewards decided that Hamilton had broken the rules and imposed a 25-second penalty on him after the race, demoting him from first to third behind Massa and BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld.

Andrew Benson - BBC Sport

Brazilian Massa is now only two points behind Hamilton with five races to go, the first of which is his Ferrari team's home Italian Grand Prix this weekend.

McLaren have indicated they intend to appeal against the decision, and have until Sunday evening to officially confirm whether they will go through with it.

"What Lewis did is the sort of thing that can happen," Massa wrote on his website, "but I think he was maybe a bit too optimistic in thinking he could just hand back the position, albeit only partially to Kimi, and then immediately try to pass him again.

"Incidents like this have often been discussed in the official driver briefings, when it was made absolutely clear that anyone cutting a chicane has to fully restore the position and also any other eventual advantage gained.

"Maybe if Lewis had waited and tried to pass on the next straight, that would have been a different matter."

Hamilton, interviewed before the stewards' verdict was made public, said he did not think he had done anything wrong.

"I had taken a short cut and I knew I had to let him pass," Hamilton said.

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

"That's what I did. Then I got back in his slipstream and got through again at the next corner.

"He hit me up the back and nearly caused me to spin. It was a great fight and I don't think there was anything wrong. This is motor racing. I think it was fair and square.

"I didn't want to wait until he flew past. I couldn't really see where he was. But eventually I could see him and I don't think I was on full throttle when he came past.

"I don't know how much more I could have done."

Massa was outpaced by Hamilton and Raikkonen in Spa, in the wet and slippery conditions at the start and end of the race and during the dry conditions that prevailed for the majority of the afternoon.

But he said he he had driven a deliberately conservative race with one eye on the championship.

"It is now looking very interesting in terms of the championship, as I am just two points behind," said Massa.

"I drove my race in Spa to finish, thinking about the championship position, and I did the right thing, because I gained one place after Kimi's crash and then after the race, came another move up the finish order.

"I am happy with that because the championship is really open now."

see also
McLaren to fight Hamilton penalty
08 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton stripped of Belgian win
07 Sep 08 |  Formula One

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