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Hamilton faces day in court before Singapore's night race


September 21, 2008 16:11 IST

Lewis Hamilton [Images] will stand before a Paris appeal court on Monday for a hearing that could ultimately affect the outcome of the Formula One championship.

Six points are at stake for the 23-year-old, who is due to appear at the hearing with McLaren team bosses before flying on to Singapore to prepare for the sport's first night race on Sunday.

Should the court decide to overrule Belgian Grand Prix stewards, who stripped Hamilton of victory at Spa this month and demoted him to third for cutting a chicane, then the McLaren driver could see his lead over Ferrari's [Images] Felipe Massa [Images] increase from one point to seven with four races remaining.

Brazilian Massa inherited the victory at Spa-Francorchamps, his fifth win of the season, after finishing the race as runner-up.

The court's verdict is due to be released by the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) on Tuesday, but the three judges must first decide whether the Mercedes-powered team's plea is admissible.

The race stewards imposed a retrospective drive-through penalty, translated into 25 seconds added to Hamilton's total time, after they decided the driver gained an advantage from cutting a chicane while battling Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen [Images] for the lead in the closing laps.

McLaren, who saw Hamilton and then team mate Fernando Alonso [Images] lose the title to Raikkonen by a single point last year, will argue that Hamilton returned the position gained and that the penalty was too harsh.

They are also sure to repeat their assertion that race control twice told them after the incident that Hamilton was in the clear.

"All we can do is present the facts," McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh said after the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

"Most people who were watching (the Belgian Grand Prix) would say Lewis deserved to win that race and not Felipe," added the Briton.

"I'm probably slightly partisan on this but I do actually believe that's what most people would imagine.

"We have just got to present the data and whatever the outcome is, that is the outcome.

"We are not counting on those points, we hold the lead at the moment in the drivers' championship by one slender point and we can expand upon that in the coming races," he added.

The FIA clarified the rules at Monza, with drivers told they must cede the place and allow at least one corner before overtaking again if they gained an advantage by cutting a chicane.

However, Whitmarsh did not expect that to have any bearing on the hearing.

Other drivers questioned at Monza were only lukewarm in their support, with Massa adamant that his rival had gained an advantage, and there is a risk that the appeal could backfire.

In 1994, British driver Eddie Irvine had a one-race ban extended to three races when his Jordan team appealed his sentence for triggering a pile-up at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

"The rules are available for everybody to read I think and they are very clear," said Toro Rosso's French driver Sebastien Bourdais on the Hamilton incident. "If you gain an advantage, you gain an advantage. It doesn't matter how big it is."

© Copyright 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage

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