x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Johnny Herbert: Why Massa received a penalty for Hamilton collision

The decision to penalise Felipe Massa for his contact with Lewis Hamilton came down to one simple fact - it could have been avoided.

Felipe Massa was disappointed to be penalised in India for his collision with Lewis Hamilton.
Felipe Massa was disappointed to be penalised in India for his collision with Lewis Hamilton.

The decision to penalise Felipe Massa for his contact with Lewis Hamilton came down to one simple fact - it could have been avoided.

As one of the stewards for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, I was involved in the review of the incident and the discussion of the penalty. I know Massa was upset by our decision, but I believe we made the right call.

Here's how the process worked:

When Massa's Ferrari came together with Lewis Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes on lap 24 of the race, we looked at replays to see if a punishment should be given for the incident. After looking at it from different camera angles and studying all the data available to us, it was clear that Massa knew where Hamilton was before he chose to turn across him.

You could see that Massa looked in his side mirror, so he knew Hamilton was on his left as they approached the left-hand turn. It appeared he was giving up the corner as he moved wide to the right, effectively opening the door for Hamilton to go down the inside on the left.

Only, Massa swept across in front of him, leading to contact.

There was nothing Hamilton could have done to avoid it. He did try to get out of the move, but it was too late and the contact was made.

If Massa had not gone wide - that would have been a different scenario altogether. If there had been contact then, the blame would have been Hamilton's.

But as it happened, the incident could have been avoided. Massa knew where Hamilton was, he opened the door for him by moving wide, and after doing that he still swept across and did not give Hamilton room. That's why the decision was made to punish him with a drive-through penalty.

That was not the only incident; it was a busy weekend in the stewards' room.

We had Hamilton in front of us on Friday after he had ignored double yellow flags that were being waved during practice after Pastor Maldonado's Williams had stopped on the track.

Hamilton was very upfront when he came to see us. He held his hands up and admitted that he had made a mistake.

Double yellow flags are a serious thing - they indicate danger ahead on track and are a warning for drivers to slow down.

Neither Hamilton orSergio Perez, the Sauber driver, did that.

What the stewards look for is a slight lift off the accelerator or for the driver to brake - something to acknowledge they have reacted to the warning. But we did not get that with either of them, hence they both received three-place grid penalties.

Safety is paramount in motorsport and double yellow flags must be respected - there could be marshals on the track dealing with the problem, and their work is dangerous enough without having cars fly past them at top speed.

Johnny Herbert is a former F1 driver with three career victories. His column was written with the assistance of staff writer Graham Caygill

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