Lewis Hamilton’s luck finally ran out with the stewards at the 2023 Belgium Grand Prix. He had on three previous occasions over the been noted for driving related incidents by the race officials and in fact called before them to explain his actions after rejoining the circuit in a dangerous fashion at the top of Eau Rouge.
The fact it was Hamilton’s team mate who had to dodge the Mercedes returning to the track at the much discussed Radilon, in all probability helped Lewis’ cause given George Russell would have informed the stewards he didn’t feel ritafected his driving line in any way.
The seven times world champion finally lost his battle with the rules arbitrators during the Sprint race when he attempted a risky move to overtake Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Hamilton does “massive” damage to RB19
Hamilton attempted to pass the Mexican as they headed into Stavelot in the final third of the lap. The front left wheel of the Mercedes made contact with Checo’s sidepod forcing him to retire from the race.
The matter was noted by the race stewards and then Red Bull revealed over team radio the huge amount of damage Hamilton had caused. This was presumably relayed to the stewards.
“It was massive damage from the contact from Lewis,” a visibly disappointed Perez later revealed.
“He just took the whole right-hand side of the car. He damaged the floor and the side pod, so that was game over. We lost too much grip with it.
F1 driver urgency due to shortened race
Due to a heavy shower just prior to the start of the Sprint, the drivers were ordered to circulate for several laps before a rolling start was ordered.
This meant the Sprint was reduced from fifteen laps to just eleven and Perez believes this affected Hamilton’s mentality.
“I think he was in a bit of a hurry. Everyone was in a hurry to recover today. It’s a very short race. So you have to take that level of risk, but not nice to get my race ruined by him.
“Basically he just ran out of grip and could not stop his car and just went into the side of me and damaged my floor. And that was very unfortunate.”
Perez improved form
After a recent run of terrible form, Perez was challenging Alpine’s Pierre Gasly for third having started in eight position.
“It was looking great,” said Checo. “The team did a great strategy to recover. We were about to get Gasly just before this safety car came out. So yeah, it was looking great. But unfortunately, it was just all too late.”
Lewis Hamilton defiant
Lewis Hamilton unsurprisingly had his own view of the incident:
“[Perez] was pretty slow and went wide and slow through 14. I got a great exit, I was more than half a car alongside him and we just ended up coming together.
“It was a bit of a racing incident really, naturally it wasn’t intentional but they [the stewards] saw it differently.
“It was very tricky conditions out there, we were all trying our best. It doesn’t make a huge difference, fourth or seventh in the Sprint you don’t get a lot of points.”
Red Bull let stewards know of “huge damage”
Of course the fact Hamilton ripped out the side of Perez’s RB19 who was passive through the entire incident , clearly didn’t register with Lewis’ when he expressed his view of the matter.
Initially Perez attempted to battle on but then the team informed him he had significant damage to his car and instructed him to retire. A short time later the stewards awarded Lewis a five second penalty for his ambitious move.
Hamilton was chasing down Pierre Gasly in the hope of claiming third in the Sprint, though his ageing tyres proved this was to be a bridge too far. Hamilton finished in P4 but was relegated three places at the chequered flag as his penalty applies.
Toto Wolff snorts in defiance
After the race the Mercedes’ boss was clearly unimpressed with the decision made by the stewards.
“Absolute racing incident,” he snorted to Sky F1.
“This is a sprint race. We want to see them racing, and the argument of the damage isn’t valid because he [Perez] was going backward before then. Massively backward.”
Mercedes arrogan and stubborn culture
Of course ramming another F1 car into a slower driver is no excuse however it is argued, yet the blindsided Toto persisted in his defence of his driver.
“I think when you look at that corner, they were side-by-side. And yeah, fair enough, it takes two to tango, but it’s a racing incident. For me, that’s pretty clear.”
Having claimed eight consecutive constructor titles, Mercedes have failed spectacularly to produce a competitive car since the big regulation changes in 2022.
A hindrance to Mercedes recovery
The team’s stubborn insistence that their aerodynamic concept would come could has clearly hampered the Mercedes’ progression and even the recent ditching of the zero side pod design has led them with a hybrid version of their original design and that of the winning Red Bull team.
Wolff’s bizarre insistence that Hamilton did nothing wrong may well be driving the arrogant self justifying culture within the former F1 champions who appear to believe if they copy the world record breaking Red Bull car design they have in some way failed.
Lewis’ onboard of the incident.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 News (@MercedesNewsUK) July 29, 2023