I received an @reply from a friend on Twitter the other day that contained a link to a story about Felipe Massa where he said that he was robbed of the WDC last year by Renaultâ€™s race fixing.
This is the quote I wish to refer to from that link, as reported last Friday on reuters.com:
â€œAll of what happened was robbery — but regarding the race nothing has happened, the result stays the same. That’s not right.â€
â€œThe robbery changed the championship. I lost by one point.â€
He continued to say, comparing the situation to a football match:
â€œI have seen in football how a referee took money to throw a game and all the matches he influenced were annulled,â€ he said.
â€œThe team responsible were relegated.
â€œHere they just sent Briatore home. I don’t understand it and I don’t think it was right.â€
Hamilton himself said of Massaâ€™s comment, as reported by BBC Sport Online: â€œI think all I can say is that it was a tough season, things happened, there were lots and lots of â€˜what ifsâ€™ throughout the season, so I’m a bit surprised to hear him say that, to be honest.
â€œI believe we had a fair battle throughout the season, so I’m a bit surprised.â€
The story led me to question, what about the stewardsâ€™ decision in Spa that handed Massa the win of the race? Would that have meant the FIA would have handed Massa the championship, if Renault hadnâ€™t cheated, and his pitstop had gone smoothlyâ€¦? Obviously, we all have our own opinions on this, Iâ€™ll write it as it could be seen from both sides, but what do you really think? Is Massa right by what he says? Or do you believe there was more to the championship fight than Renault â€œrobbingâ€ Massa?
Itâ€™s a fair enough point to make that if Piquet hadnâ€™t crashed in Singapore last year, Massa may not have had that pitlane blunder, and consequently may be the current world champion. At the same time, it is also fair to say that there were many â€˜incidentsâ€™ in the 2008 season that effectively made a difference to the eventual outcome.
Depending on whether you are a Ferrari or a McLaren fan, or whether you sit on the fence, you are likely to have a different opinion on this, but the â€˜incidentâ€™ from last season that very nearly re-shaped the championship, was Hamiltonâ€™s Spa penalty.
The incident that resulted in that penalty was where Hamilton cut the Bus Stop chicane and gained an advantage over Raikkonen in the closing laps of the race. Chicanes are supposed to slow down the car, and Hamilton cutting it meant he carried more speed into the straight, to gain an advantage over Kimi. While this was why the stewards issued him with a penalty, there were other factors that may suggest it was unnecessary.
First of all he gave Kimi back the place, and while in the dry lifting for the amount of time he did would have been perceived to have still been an advantage, what about the facts that:
a) Kimi was evidently struggling in the wet, while Hamilton had more grip going down the pit straight
b) Kimi passed Lewis again shortly after anyway
c) Kimi ended up in the wall, and
d) Massa didnâ€™t even lead at any point in the race.
When you iron out all the creases of this penalty, technically, Hamilton was perhaps the deserved winner of the race and ultimately you would then say the championship. So therefore you could argue, that while Massa has every right to feel like he was â€˜robbedâ€™ by Renault, Hamilton may well have been the one complaining he was robbed by what, in hindsight, could be debated as the wrong decision. McLaren certainly saw it that way when they appealed the decision.
While it was the stewardsâ€™ decision to penalise Hamilton and award Massa the race win, it is also a fair point to make, that the six points gained by Massa in Spa, would have been what handed him the championship over Hamilton, if indeed the events of Singapore had been different.
The stewardsâ€™ decision was an official decision that nothing on track could change, it was just a case of lost or gained points decided in an office after the racing had finished, whereas the safety car and the botched pitstop changed the way it played out for the other contender while the race was still underway. While Hamiltonâ€™s penalty came about from a racing incident, Massaâ€™s finish out of the points in Singapore happened as the race played out. But did the crash and the safety car make a difference, would it have happened anyway?
You can look at this from two points of view.
Firstly, Massa is right, that Hamilton had been penalised, whether rightly or wrongly, and the results of that stood going into Singapore two races later. And that was when Piquet crashed and the safety car was deployed, and that pitstop blunder cost Massa the title, by one point.
Secondly, there is the factor that technically the win in Spa was Hamiltonâ€™s, and even if Singapore had gone smoothly, the title was rightly Hamiltonâ€™s anyway, because after all, the on-track racing is where the points are decided, not in the stewardsâ€™ room afterwards where the right or wrong decisions are made for or against the person who crossed the line first.
Then again, there could be a third point of view: Massa may still have pulled out of his pit box with his fuel hose attached.
All this has come from a quote, and while I wonâ€™t debate that what Massa said could indeed be true, there are also other keys factors that ultimately paved the way to the final championship result. Of course, I am a McLaren fan, so I do look at it with Spa in mind, and that the championship wasnâ€™t just about Renault fixing one race. But what do you think? Is Massa right, or was it just one of those â€˜incidentsâ€™ from last season that cost a driver vital points?