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I did no wrong at Spa, says Hamilton

September 23, 2008 09:53 IST

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton [Images] told a Formula One appeal court on Monday that he had gained no advantage from a chicane-cutting controversy that cost him victory in this month's Belgian Grand Prix.

The 23-year-old championship leader was demoted from first to third at Spa-Francorchamps after cutting a chicane in a duel over the closing laps with Ferrari's [Images] Kimi Raikkonen [Images].

Although he gave the place back on the straight before overtaking the world champion into the next corner, stewards ruled the Briton had gained an advantage by failing to give the place back satisfactorily.

Asked whether he had done so, Hamilton told the International Automobile Federation (FIA) appeal hearing: "I believe so hand on heart."

Hamilton, who will see his lead over Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa [Images] stretch from one point to seven if McLaren win their appeal, said he had no choice but to cut the chicane to avoid a crash with Finland's Raikkonen.

"When the track is damp and you are at the end of the race, the last thing you want to do is to crash with him. You do not have to take stupid risks," he said.

"When you drive the circuit, you think about staying between the two white lines. There is no if or when," he added under intense cross-examining by Ferrari.


Hamilton, whose next race is Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, said race director Charlie Whiting had wrong-footed McLaren by suggesting at the time that the team were in the clear.

"I know that the team were talking to Charlie. I would have given (the lead) back if they had told me to do so. It was a shame we were told it was OK," Hamilton told the five judges.

Whiting said he gave wrong advice to McLaren because he had only seen the incident once live when they asked his opinion.

"It became clear to me after seeing the incident in a more detailed way that the whole advantage had not been given back," said the race director.

Hamilton added that he did not know he was not allowed to attack Raikkonen at the next corner, a ruling clarified only before the subsequent Italian Grand Prix.

"I did not hear about this rule until Monza," he said. "I was going to overtake him anyway."

Whiting, the FIA and Ferrari team manager Luca Baldisserri all said Hamilton would not have been able to attack Raikkonen if he had not cut the chicane.

"If he had stayed on the track, he would not have been in a position to attack at turn one. He would not have been that close to Kimi," Whiting said.

The debate could become irrelevant if the judges decide McLaren's plea is not admissible. Their verdict is due to be released on Tuesday.

"I think it is important that I came today," Hamilton told reporters afterwards. "I am not really worried. I come here today in the hope that the judges see the truth and understand that I am a racing driver, that I drive for excellence.

"At the moment, as I see it, I am one point ahead and that is how I approach the next race.".

© 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.
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