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Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Sunday, 7 September 2008 17:38 UK
Belgian Grand Prix
Spa-Francorchamps, 5-7 September

By Andrew Benson

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton was handed a 25-second penalty after the race

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was stripped of a dramatic victory in the Belgian Grand Prix after stewards handed him a 25-second post-race penalty.

The Englishman was demoted to third place behind Ferrari's Felipe Massa and BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld.

He was accused of gaining an advantage by cutting the Spa circuit's Bus Stop chicane in a late-race battle with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

McLaren announced that they intend to appeal against the stewards' decision.

The demotion meant Hamilton's lead over Massa in the title chase cut to two points.

Massa's team-mate Raikkonen, who crashed out of second place shortly after losing the lead, is 19 points behind Hamilton.

Raikkonen is a point behind BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica.

Before the penalty, Hamilton had extended his lead over the Brazilian to eight points, with Raikkonen effectively out of the running on 23.

On the track, Hamilton had survived a frantic last two laps in a late shower of rain to apparently score a superb win.

Hamilton lost the lead to Raikkonen with an early spin but fought back in the closing laps to re-take the lead with two laps to go.

In a dramatic climax on a soaking track, Hamilton passed Raikkonen, lost the lead again with a spin, re-took it and then saw Raikkonen crash.

I was praying for rain - I wanted it to come because I knew how to deal with it

Lewis Hamilton

In a chaotic final couple of laps, Heidfeld jumped from eighth to third place on the track with what he called a "hero or zero decision" to come in for wet-weather tyres with two laps to go.

Renault's Fernando Alonso chose the same tactic a lap later and it secured the double world champion the fourth place he had held for much of the race.

"It was an experience and a half," Hamilton said before his penalty was announced. "I was praying for rain. I wanted it to come because I knew how to deal with it.

"The heavens opened and I saw Kimi begin to back off and to brake a bit earlier.

"I was going reasonably wide at Turn 12 but Rosberg spun and went off where I was coming back on. I went over the grass. It was incredibly tough.

"Kimi pushed me wide. I was a little bit ahead. I was outside on Turn One, I had no room and he basically pushed me so I went on the escape route.

"So I let him past, then got in his tow and he was ducking and diving left and right but I managed to get past him and I was pretty much gone from there."

Lewis Hamilton lost his lead in the Belgian Grand Prix with this spin on lap two
Hamilton fought back from this early spin to win in dramatic fashion

It was another superb performance in the wet from Hamilton, who has inherited Michael Schumacher's mantle as Formula One's rain master.

But for a long time it had looked as if the Englishman had tossed away his chance of victory on the daunting Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

The race started with the track wet in the immediate vicinity of the pits but dry on the majority of the lap.

Hamilton, along with every other driver in the race other than Renault's Nelson Piquet Jr, chose dry tyres.

But the conditions caught him out at the start of lap two, and he spun turning into the La Source hairpin.

The mistake put Raikkonen right behind him and the Ferrari driver simply drove past on the straight after the Eau Rouge esses.

It was a critical error from Hamilton, who was fuelled to make his first pit stop a lap earlier than Raikkonen.


That meant his main hope of holding off the Ferrari driver was to build a lead big enough before his stop on lap 10 that Raikkonen could not close it on his extra lap.

Instead, although Hamilton shadowed Raikkonen to the first stops, he could not pass him.

Hamilton's hopes were further dented when he came out from his pit stop right behind his slower team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, who was battling for position with Kubica.

By the time he had cleared Kovalainen and Kubica five laps later, Raikkonen was five seconds ahead, a lead he was able to maintain comfortably to the second round of stops.

The two men both made their final stops on lap 25 and on the harder tyre Hamilton was able to close on the Ferrari.

The 23-year-old shaved about half a second a lap out of Raikkonen's lead and was within two seconds of the Ferrari by lap 31.

Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari is carried back to the pits after the Finn's crash on the penultimate lap of the Belgian Grand Prix
Raikkonen's hopes of victory - and probably the title - ended with a crash

He was unable to make much more of an impression until the predicted late shower of rain arrived with about five laps to go.

Within minutes, the back of the circuit was soaking, while it remained dry in the vicinity of the pits - not an unusual situation at a track renowned for its capricious weather.

Hamilton closed right up to Raikkonen on lap 42 but he fatefully cut the Bus Stop chicane after pulling out of a passing move at the end of the lap.

He then chased Raikkonen down the pit straight and passed the Ferrari going into the La Source hairpin at the start of lap 43.

But that was not the end of the battle.

When the two men reached the wet part of the track halfway around the lap, Hamilton slid off, handing the lead back to Raikkonen, who almost immediately lost it again by sliding off himself.

The Finn then lost control going through the fast Blanchimont corner, and speared into the wall.

But the drama had not finished, and was merely switched to the stewards' office.

Their decision is likely to be greeted with cynicism as it makes the championship battle dramatically closer at a time when Hamilton was beginning to look like he was inching towards his first title.

Result of Belgian Grand Prix:

1. Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari one hour 22 minutes 59.394 seconds
2. Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 9.383 seconds behind
3. Lewis Hamilton* (GB) McLaren-Mercedes at 10.539secs
4. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 14.478
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 14.576
6. Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 15.037
7. Sebastien Bourdais (Fra) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 16.735
8. Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 42.776
9. Timo Glock** (Ger) Toyota 67.045, 10. Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes one lap behind
11. David Coulthard (GB) Red Bull-Renault one lap
12. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams one lap
13. Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari one lap
14. Kazuki Nakajima (Jpn) Williams-Toyota one lap
15. Jenson Button (GB) Honda one lap
16. Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota one lap
17. Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Force India-Ferrari one lap
18R Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari two laps
R Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Honda 19 laps completed
R Nelson Piquet (Brz) Renault 31 laps

Key: R = retired

Fastest lap: Raikkonen, 1:47.930, lap 24

* Hamilton penalised 25 seconds for gaining an advantage by cutting a chicane

** Glock penalised 25 seconds for ignoring yellow warning flags

see also
McLaren to fight Hamilton penalty
07 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Super Hamilton takes Belgian pole
06 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Donington submits new track plans
06 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton takes cautious approach
27 Aug 08 |  Formula One
Massa closes on Hamilton with win
24 Aug 08 |  Formula One

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