x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Simply a hard move that backfired in Hamilton's crash at Spa

Hamilton was unwise to change line, but the crash with Kobayashi was nobody's fault in a tight race at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton, top left, has the inside line for the next corner ahead but chose to come in, and expected Kamui Kobayashi to back off.
Lewis Hamilton, top left, has the inside line for the next corner ahead but chose to come in, and expected Kamui Kobayashi to back off.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If Lewis Hamilton could rewind time, I am sure he would change a lot about how he drove on the 13th lap of Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

The Briton crashed out after he was touched from behind by Kamui Kobayashi as they jostled for position coming up to Les Combes.

Hamilton had actually passed the Sauber driver earlier on in the straight, but chose to try to move across from right to left as they came up to take the next corner, a right-hander.

The McLaren-Mercedes driver either thought that he was already completely past, or that Kobayshi was going to back out of it, but his movement brought him across the front of the Sauber, which clipped him and pitched him into the barriers and out of the race.

Hamilton, as he confirmed on his Twitter page on Sunday night when he acknowledged responsibility for the crash, will look back at the incident, and wish he had given Kobayashi more space.

There was no need to squeeze him, and he should have known that the Japanese driver is renown for always keeping his foot in and never backing off.

It was also unnecessary as he already had the inside line for the next corner, but he was trying to set himself to have the ideal line to sweep into the right-hander without losing too much speed.

What he should have done is kept his line, and he would have been fine.

Yes, he would have had a slower, tighter entry to the corner, giving Kobayashi a possible run at him as he would have had the natural outside line, but I am confident that with Hamilton's speed advantage he would have been able to hold him off and hold the position.

The skill in racing just inches from another competitor is knowing where the other car is, and I think Hamilton wrongly expected Kobayashi to concede the corner once he had his front wing in front.

I heard David Coulthard say on the BBC coverage that Kobayashi should have backed off and given Hamilton the corner, but to me Kobayashi was within his rights to battle Hamilton.

This was not Hamilton lapping a slower car. They were racing for position, but while Coulthard was right that Kobayashi lost out badly from the incident as well, he was within his rights to keep pushing Hamilton.

Hamilton has been accused in the past of changing his line while going into a corner, most memorably when he touched wheels with Mark Webber, and nearly forced Timo Glock off at the Italian Grand Prix, but I do not think, in this case, it was specifically his fault or Kobyashi's. I think the race stewards got it right in taking no action over the affair as it was two drivers just pushing hard as they drove, wheel to wheel.

I just think that when Hamilton looks back he will wish that he had given Kobayashi a little more space. If he had, I think, he would have gone on to claim a podium finish, or possibly even better, but we will never know because of the incident.

***

Spa-Francorchamps always throws up a good race, and Sunday's event was fantastic, full of overtaking, close racing and intrigue, as all the teams battled with tyre management issues.

The regulation changes have really worked well this season, and Spa brought out the best of them without the need for rain.

There is speculation about the circuit's future with reports that it is struggling to stay on the calendar because of financial issues.

For me it would be a great shame if it was lost, as I always loved racing there in F1.

Be it F1, in GT racing or in a sports car, it always offered a challenge for the driver, and that is what you want from a circuit.

 

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

gcaygill@thenational.ae


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