Hamilton pays penalty at Spa

McLaren and Ferrari were the dominant forces in 2008, and occupied the front two rows for the race at Spa, with Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) on pole from Felipe Massa (Ferrari), with Heikkei Kovalainen (McLaren) third and Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) fourth.

As so often at Spa, the weather intervened to liven up the proceedings. The track was damp from earlier rain as the race began, with the cars sliding off the grid on dry tyres as Hamilton made a clean getaway, holding his lead from Massa. Kovalainen had a terrible start, dropping back into midfield, while Raikkonen took the long way around the outside of La Source but held third place, taking second past Massa on the Kemmel Straight, with Kimi getting a better run through Raidillon. In the slippy conditions the cars were sliding around, and at the start of lap two Hamilton spun at La Source, with Raikkonen behind running wide around La Source to avoid the spinning McLaren. Kimi now had a run on the slowly restarting Lewis and dragged past him on the Kemmel Straight into Les Combes to take the lead.

Kimi and Lewis circulated in the lead with Massa dropping back until the first round of pitstops. McLaren made the first move, bringing Lewis in, but traffic counted against them and when the stops had shaken out Kimi had a 5 second lead over Hamilton, with Massa 10 seconds back on his Ferrari team mate in third. The track had dried out at this stage and the leading trio maintained their relative positions through the second round of pitstops. Kimi seemed to be in control, as the gap between the leading pair see-sawed, but then rain fell again towards the end of the race.

Lewis began to draw closer to the Ferrari, and with three laps to go he followed Kimi through Blanchimont and pulled out to make a move on the outside going into the Bus Stop chicane. Kimi held his line, forcing Hamiltlon to bail out at the last second, cutting across the grass and taking the position from Raikkonen. Having passed off the track Hamilton then gave the position back to Kimi, just about, letting Raikkonen past him on the straight but immediately diving up the inside to retake the position into La Source. It was a move that was to ultimately cost Hamilton the race, as he would be handed a time penalty hours after the race by the stewards for not ceding the position back to Raikkonen.

On track Hamilton had the lead, and we were set for a grand stand finish. With two laps left Kimi was trying desperately to hang on to Hamilton’s tail on an ever slippy track to get the place back. The pair weaved down the Kemmel straight, and Kimi ran wide into Pouhon, taking an unusual line off track around the outside of Pouhon, keeping his momentum up and gaining on Hamilton as a result. Immediately out of Pouhon there was trouble, as Nico Rosberg had spun his Williams and was rejoining the track at the Pif Paf chicane. Hamilton went wide on the grass in avoidance and Kimi zipped by into the lead, but Kimi spun on the exit of the chicane, allowing Lewis back into first, with Massa now right behind the two leaders. Kimi tried to regain ground but lost it completely through Blanchimont, running wide off the track and the spinning back across the inside of the track and smashing his Ferrari off the wall.

The rain was falling ever more, and the leaders tip toed around the final lap without coming in for wets, with Hamilton taking the chequered flag from Massa. After an exhilarating end to the race however the result would be overturned by the stewards, with Hamilton penalised for taking a position from Kimi by cutting the chicane, seeing him demoted to third behind Nick Heidfeld’s BMW-Sauber (who had made a late switch to wet weather tyres) and eventual race winner Felipe Massa.

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