Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton. Nick Heidfeld, Spa-Francorchamps, 2008

Hamilton had “a lot of penalties through no fault of my own” in 2007 and 2008

2019 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton says there were “strange things going on” in his first seasons of Formula 1 and he felt people were doing “anything to stop me from succeeding”.

The five-times world champion claimed he was unfairly given penalties during his first two seasons. Hamilton missed out on the championship by a single point in his 2007 rookie campaign but clinched the title in dramatic circumstances the following year.

“[It was] really traumatising because I lost it for a second, in the last corner I got the championship,” said Hamilton in an interview with Graham Bensinger.

“And also I had a lot of penalties given to me in those two years through no fault of my own Just through some strange things that were going on in the business. Almost like anything to stop me from succeeding.”

Last year Hamilton said he felt he had been ‘screwed’ out of a win in the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix. He was given a time penalty for an incident involving Kimi Raikkonen, which handed victory to his championship rival Felipe Massa.

Looking back on his start to life in F1, Hamilton said he wasn’t mature enough to make his debut with McLaren.

“When I finally succeeded it was a great feeling but we just rolled on to the next year. I think just also at 23 I guess I just wasn’t mature enough to grasp everything that was going on and go and enjoy it.”

“I wasn’t prepared for the media,” he added. “I didn’t have media lessons, how to speak to camera, how to speak to people. I just arrived and I was thrown in the deep end without any lessons. And I just handled it the best I could.”

However Hamilton said he feels “proud” to see more drivers from different backgrounds coming into motorsport. “Asian kids, black kids, different ethnicities are now coming in.”

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Lewis Hamilton’s penalties in 2007 and 2008

Hungary 2007Alonso blocks Hamilton in the pits during qualifyingFive-place grid penalty for Alonso, team lose constructors’ points for raceHamilton, who inherited pole position, had ignored a team instruction to let Alonso start his lap first.
Japan 2007Kubica collides with HamiltonKubica given a drive-through penalty
Japan 2007Collision between Vettel and Webber behind Hamilton during safety car periodNo action taken on Hamilton. Vettel initially given ten-place penalty, later reduced to a reprimand.Only investigated after evidence emerged in video shot by fan
Brazil 2007Hamilton, Button and Sato use an extra set of wet tyres in practiceAll teams have to return extra set and pay €15,000 finesOccurred in practice for championship-deciding race
Malaysia 2008Hamilton and Kovalainen impede Heidfeld and Alonso in qualifyingFive-place grid drop for Hamilton and Kovalainen
Europe 2008Hamilton arrives late for FIA press conference€5,000 fine
Canada 2008Hamilton crashes into Raikkonen in the pit laneTen-place grid drop for next raceRosberg received same penalty for same infringement
France 2008Hamilton cuts a chicane while overtaking VettelDrive-through penalty for Hamilton
Belgium 2008Hamilton overtakes Raikkonen at the corner after he had gone off the track and allowed Raikkonen pastPost-race time penalty, which cost him his victoryMcLaren’s appeal rejected as “inadmissible”
Japan 2008Raikkonen goes off the track as Hamilton runs wide in turn oneDrive-through penalty for Hamilton
Japan 2008Hamilton hit by MassaDrive-through penalty for Massa

Above table adapted from this article:

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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69 comments on “Hamilton had “a lot of penalties through no fault of my own” in 2007 and 2008”

  1. Now comes the part where I throw back my head and laugh.

    1. Really?

      I mean surely any real fan can see that his 2008 season was odd? That Kimi penalty was a strange decision in anybodies reality…

      1. Yes, it’s not just about the penalties Hamilton received, but it’s also about some the penalties Massa did NOT receive:

        e.g. https://www.racefans.net/2008/08/24/fine-for-ferrari-massa-gets-off-free-and-the-fia-gets-it-wrong-on-every-count/

        There were some odd decisions in 2008

        1. A quick update on this one: Although the clip cited was promoted recently (as per the link in the article), I’ve just discovered it’s actually from an earlier interview published in 2016. So while it’s an interesting point from Hamilton, it’s obviously not new, and therefore not really newsworthy, so I’ve taken the article off the home page as a result to avoid giving the wrong impression.

    2. Grabs popcorn

      1. @spoutnik – move over on the couch and share! :)

  2. Paranoid Android

  3. Five thousand euros for being late to a press conference, LOL. The infamous ’08 Spa incident: He definitely should’ve never got the penalty he got at Spa that season. The rule wasn’t even in place yet at the time, so it was unfair to penalize him for something that only came into effect afterwards. I wouldn’t use the word ‘penalty’ on some of those incidents, though. The ones that didn’t lead to him getting a penalty. The thing that happened in one of the practice sessions for the 2007 Brazilian GP: I was never aware of that until today. For some reason, it never became apparent to me at the time. I remembered that the entire weekend was dry throughout. It was rather weird that Rosberg also got penalized for the 2008 Canadian GP pit exit incident even though he didn’t do anything wrong there to be honest and fair. The Spa penalty was unfair, but I’d also add that the penalties he received in Monaco in 2011 (for his overtaking attempts on Massa and Maldonado at the hairpin and St. Devote respectively) were rather unfair as well.

    1. The ’08 Spa penalty was not on, but all of the others mentioned, including Monaco ’11, were legit. IMHO.

      1. @Kenny I disagree with you on the ”including Monaco ’11, were legit” part. I’d predominantly if not thoroughly blame Massa and Maldonado for those incidents for ‘failing to leave sufficient space.’ Hamilton had a big portion of the car length alongside them and they (especially Massa at the hairpin) still just decided to shut the door at the last minute leaving LH no chance of avoiding contact anymore. He can’t vanish in thin air after all. Ocon’s move on Kimi in Baku last season was more or less a carbon copy of the Hamilton-Massa Monaco ’11 incident. Sometimes a driver seems to think that he has a right to take off all the space at the last minute and potentially cause a crash just because he’s slightly ahead of the competitor in question. Being ahead doesn’t give you the right to force the other driver off the track and or into the wall at all costs, but that sometimes seems to be the attitude of a defending driver, which is something I don’t respect too much to be perfectly honest.

        “If you no longer go for a gap which exists you are no longer a racing driver.”

        1. @Jere I recall the long discussions I had with fellow F1 fans on social media about those incidents…most of them felt as you do. But I watched the film over and over and couldn’t come to any conclusion other than Lewis tried to go where there was no place to go. I am not a Hamilton fan, so perhaps I see what I want to see…I hope I am more objective than that, though…lol.

    2. Hemingway (@)
      22nd March 2019, 10:51

      Get over it. One questionable subjective decision where the rules were less clear and open to interperetation.

      Where are all the other drivers who cry racism when they get a bad decision go against them?


      1. Did other drivers have racist nicknames within the paddock during that period? Thought it was just Hamilton.

    3. @jerejj The Spa ’08 incident was a clear cut example of leaving the track and gaining advantage, a rule that was already in place at the time. Without cutting the corner he was never able to overtake Kimi in La Source, hence the advantage. You could say that he was forced off track by Kimi, so for me a penalty wasn’t nescessary but the penalty was fair.

      Seeing Racefans’ overview of Hamilton’s penalties in 2007 and 2008 I’m inclined to say that Hamilton’s opinion about unfair penalties is incorrect.

      1. (@matthijs) Re Spa 2008, You are conveniently omitting he initally gave the place back to Kimi

        1. You are conveniently omitting he initally gave the place back to Kimi

          Yes I did leave it out, but not conviently. He did give his place back, but he still gained a advantage. I understand why people feel that giving the place back is always the same as giving up your advantage, but for me (and the FIA at the time) it is not.

          1. How do measure that he gained an advanatage if he had physically given the place back? What sticks out here are 2 things

            (1) McLaren asked race control 2 times & 2 times race control confirmed Hamilton had handed back the position in the correct manner

            (2) There was no rule in place that stated a driver had to wait until the next corner, to try re pass, so as to ensure no advantage was gained. That rule was brought in retrospectively

            (3) Kimi was soon back in front of Hamilton anyway, so no lasting advantage was gained by Hamilton

          2. AM@AM

            There was no rule in place that stated a driver had to wait until the next corner, to try re pass, so as to ensure no advantage was gained. That rule was brought in retrospectively

            There didn’t need to be a rule, there already was a rule that was sufficient. Without cutting the corner he was unable to overtake Kimi into turn 1. So he gained an advantage by cutting the corner. The penalty was harsh, now 5 seconds would be applied and with that penalty he would still have won.

            Your point 1 is a good point and feels unfair indeed. However, the fact that McLaren asked twice whether Hamilton handed back the place correctly tells me that there also were people within the team that felt that he didn’t.

          3. There didn’t need to be a rule, there already was a rule that was sufficient. Without cutting the corner he was unable to overtake Kimi into turn 1. So he gained an advantage by cutting the corner. The penalty was harsh, now 5 seconds would be applied and with that penalty he would still have won”

            But he gave the place back. You keep omitting that important fact. That’s all the rule at that time required. To give the place back, which he did. There was nothing in rules that stated he had to wait.

            , the fact that McLaren asked twice whether Hamilton handed back the place correctly tells me that there also were people within the team that felt that he didn’t.”

            Not necessarily. More like they wanted complete clarification of this grey area after what happened with Alonso in Japan 2005.

            It was obvious there was confusion all round regarding this area. And the stewards really should have taken all this ambiguity & uncertainty regarding the rules into mitigation when penalising Hamilton.

          4. AM@AM We keep talking in circles. I understand and respect your point of view, I just don’t agree. For me there was enough reason to penalise Hamilton, even though they didn’t have to.

      2. Except that it was not. Hamilton was not punished for it either. He was punished for simply leaving the track… (Read the official FIA report) Something Kimi did 2 corners later! Hamilton could not have been punished for gaining an advantage as the rules clearly stated that as long as you give the position back then it was not considered an advantage. The rules were changed after the incident.

        Now can you name any other driver in modern times that has been punished for leaving the track once in a race?

      3. @matthijs What AM@AM pointed out is indeed why I argue against the penalty. I’m referring to his 2nd point. I wouldn’t definitely regard it as ”a clear cut example of leaving the track and gaining advantage.” Whether he would’ve been able to re-pass Kimi into la Source without cutting the last chicane or not is largely debatable, and not so easy to judge, and, of course, we’ll never get to know for sure how it would’ve panned out without the cut.

        1. And again, he was not penalised for “Gaining and Advantage” he was penalised for simply “Leaving the track”. That is what made it so much worse especially given that Kimi left the track two corners later and clearly gained an advantage…

  4. Spa is the example that comes to mind.

    He did gave the position back, but not in the way they expected.

    So their reasoning to give him a penalty is also inadmissible.

    Most of all, it was a time every little thing was resulting in big penalties. It was ridiculous.

  5. Out of all the penalties, only the one in Spa is questionable (although he did get a lasting advantage by going off track). Dont see anything wrong with the others.

    But he makes it sound like a conspiracy against him. Even in a championship winning year he has to complain about unfairness. Wow.

    1. Jonathan Parkin
      22nd March 2019, 12:01

      But what ever ‘advantage’ he gained at Spa in 2008 was wiped out when Kimi crashed at the end of that lap

  6. throwback to 2008

    Massa: *coughs loudly*

  7. Looking back on his penalties from the period I don’t agree. Of course Belgium 2008 was a travesty, but that’s pretty much it. Japan 2008 was a bit harsh but it’s important to remember that softer penalties (e.g. the five- and 10-second time penalties) weren’t available then.

    1. Keith, when you come down here, to the comment section, you can’t be sensible. That won’t make you one of us, you have to mingle better.

  8. The table doesn’t show any HAM-penalty in ’07.

  9. Can’t but feel that he would have been 7 times DWC already if not for the positively racist things that were going on in F! at that time. Not blatant but definitely overt. Bernie I think only stepped in when he realised that in Lewis he had gold in his hand which he could exploit to enhance F1 image worldwide.

  10. OMG Hamilton has always been a bit of a whinger, this stuff is history. Because he was born with a skill that we value he lives a privileged life style and has millions fans. Shut Hamilton and just drive the car.

    1. You’ve been trolled this an article from 2016.

      1. Yup. People getting annoyed about what he said in a three year old interview, where he relates what his mindset was as a 23 year old eleven or twelve years ago.

        1. @riptide more like you and Noel don’t like not liking anyone speaking out about your hero? He is a whiner he is known for it.

          1. Entitled whiner to boot.

          2. All drivers are whiners. They all have something to moan about. That said, Hamilton is probably being asked about this, by journo, in an interview.

          3. On the contrary, I love posts such as yours. What are you complaining about this time? Oh yea, stop whinging Hamilton because its history. And what have you used to argue your point? A three year old interview. Piece of advice. Stop whinging, it’s history.

    2. Wow you’re so enraged you make no sense.

  11. Oh, for God’s sake!
    It will be exactly because of this systematic stance of victimization and pedantry, that you will never be considered a “true” champion, when compared to the dimension of others, these yes, really true champions …

    1. What a load of codswollap. You are talking rubbish

    2. … you know it’s people like you he’s talking about, right?

  12. I have to say that, looking at the list of penalties above, the only one which was probably wrong was Spa 2008. The rest seem fine in the circumstances (with the possible exception of Japan 2008).

  13. Lenny (@leonardodicappucino)
    22nd March 2019, 11:13

    Although I really respect Hamilton as one of the best drivers ever, I really dislike him as a person. If we look back now at one or two penalties (France and Belgium 2008) sound amazingly disproportionate now, they were perfectly normal at the time. In those years, going off track and gaining an advantage almost always equalled a drive through penalty. This was before the invention of the 5- and 10-second penalty. The only penalty that was really off was the Japan 2008 one, but then again, if I remember correctly, there were some other weird penalties and such going in that race, so that may have just been weird stewards. Interestingly, although I don’t think Hamilton’s actions in Japan warranted a penalty, the British media did condemn his “overagressive” driving. Overall, I think that one or maybe (extremely farfetched in my probably not unbiased opinion) two wrong penalties in two years really does not constitute enough grounds for the comment “anything to stop me from succeeding”

    1. We will never know what was going on behind the scenes and unless you are asian black or otherwise non white, you will never understand the undertones of colour bias.
      I live in the UK and it is prevalent everywhere. I am just not intimidated by whites. Period.
      I just happen to be in a privileged enough position to deal with it firmly.
      I respect everyone whoever or wherever they come from and that is how it should be.

      1. @macradar tell that to the Germans in f1 who, when they become wdc contenders, always have the British press/fans against them.

    2. Belguim 2008 a harsh penalty.

      He was forced off track by Raikkonenen, cut the corner, but then gave the place back. There was no hard & fast rule that a driver had to wait until the next corner to try & re-pass. So he was affectively stripped of a fantastic win under a rule that didn’t exist

    3. You cant say, you don’t know him. Arrogance of internet warriors thinking their view on scant evidence is worth repeating again and again

  14. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
    22nd March 2019, 11:36

    As others have stated, Spa 2008 definitely felt harsh. The other penalties (what few actual penalties there were) don’t really scream “injustice” to me, though.

    As for the weirdness that happened in 2007 – especially towards the tail end of the season – I’ve got this to say: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by McLaren being McLaren.

  15. I was at that race in Spa and I felt cheated, lord knows how he felt but I guess those who ‘throw their head back and laugh’ don’t get emotionally involved in it. Im glad I do.

  16. For me failure to red flag the japanese grand prix when before sutil crushed leading to his death is the biggest travesty of fair judgement by formula one ..

  17. Hamilton was/is not the only one who received debatable penalties over the years. I would say that his sense of entitlement also was very high in those early years, which may contribute to him feeling as being treated unfairly.

  18. SPA 2008 was complete & utter digrace

    Hamilton was penalised for not ceding the advantage. Yet, at the time, there was no rule that a driver had to wait until the next corner before attacking again, so as to ensure no advantage had been gained. That rule was introduced in Monza, retrospectively, after the horse had bolted. During Spa, the prevailing rule was that a driver merely had to give the place back if they cut the corner, which Hamilton did. So, in essence, Hamilton was penalised under rule that didn’t then exist. And the fact that Kimi crashed out all by himself shortly thereafter, merely compounds the absurdity of the decision. And why did race control twice tell McLaren that Hamilton had done everything by the book? If Race Control had instead expressed any concern regarding Lewis’s actions at that time, McLaren would have instructed Lewis to allow Kimi to re-pass for a second time. Then, when McLaren try to appeal the decision, they are told a 25 sec pen, was not subject to appeal – despite Toro Rosso being allowed to appeal a 25 sec penalty, handed down to Vitantonio Liuzzi in Japan 2007. The FIA used the “excuse” that allowing Toro Rosso their appeal was “a mistake”, because Liuzzi’s 25sec penalty should have been a drive-through penalty instead. You really couldn’t make this stuff up. The whole thing was a mess. Poorly handled. It overshadowed what was otherwise, fantastic racing between Lewis & Kimi and a fantastic win for Hamilton. What the FIA did was to hand the win to Massa, who had been poor throught out most of that race and didn’t deserve the victory.

    1. *complete & utter disgrace..

  19. I believe LH is 100% Correct.
    More than 1 race steward disliked him intensely.
    Martin Brundel positively hates LH.
    jackie rscahestewart was constantly criticising LH.
    Now that nasty piece of work was disgustingly fawning over LH’s last WDC.
    He admits he couldn’t handle a lot of things in those days.
    None of LH’s multitude of detractors could handle him either.
    They were sickeningly anti his rock star & fashion icon status, in his off track activities to a man.
    Only now with his success are they being quiet.
    Jealousy isn’t nice.

  20. No one beached that car in China 2007 instead of him.
    No one slammed in the back of stationary cars in the pitlane in Canada 2008.

    While some penalties were questionable, there were many where he got off quite lucky.

    1. “there were many where he got off quite lucky.”

      Such as?

  21. Apparently an unpopular opinion but I think Spa was deserved.

    1. +1.
      I’ve already stated back in 2016 that giving back a position for a tenth of a second then pressing on to attack again is not giving back the position at all. Also, Hamilton wouldn’t have been in a position to overtake at La Source had he not cut the corner at the Bus Stop, so all in all, a fair penalty.

      1. +1
        Fully agree with this assessment

      2. @palagyi Whether he would’ve been able to re-pass Kimi into la Source without cutting the last chicane or not is largely debatable, and not so easy to judge, and, of course, we’ll never get to know for sure how it would’ve panned out without the cut.

  22. Bookmarked for ten years challenge when the same article of Verstappen published.

  23. The one that most stuck out from that period and still something that makes me wonder is when a lot of cars aquaplaned into the gravel trap and got beached in the 2007 European Grand Prix, then there’s a crane lifting Hamilton out and he’s allowed to continue and the others not in spite of the rules, precedent and sporting values. No others were assisted. It completely goes against the narrative that FIA didn’t want him to do well. In fact it speaks to the opposite.

    1. That was absolute genius, really. Apparently Hamilton had been reading the rule book, and realized there was nothing in it preventing him staying in the car and getting hoisted out. Since everyone else shut off their cars and bailed, they weren’t allowed to continue.

      Immediately after the race, the FIA updated the rules to prevent it from happening again.

  24. The sad thing about Spa 2008 was that the battle between Raikkonen and Hamilton was one of the best we had seen in F1 for many years. To see it decided hours later, by race officials, left a sour taste in the mouths of many.
    Having said that, a lot of Hamilton’s penalties were warranted and you have to remember, when you are at the front in a top team the scrutiny is always going to be a lot worse. Hamilton made enemies quickly, it happened to all the top drivers over the years, despite who they were.

    1. I have a feeling Lewis’s father made more enemies than Lewis did.

  25. Guybrush Threepwood
    22nd March 2019, 16:30

    Just like in 2016, maybe instead of blaming everything else for not winning the championship Hamilton should have cut back on the number of mistakes he made that cost him.

  26. Tha fact that the guy wasn’t born early enough to win all the WDCs since 1950 is blatantly racist

  27. Spa 2008 is the famous one but Japan 2008 is the one that sticks in my memory. Mistakes of that variety into Turn 1 were never punished like that… to give him a drive-through for it, then give the same penalty to Massa for an extremely questionable collision (my F1 mind has evolved over 11 years, but it’s never been able to assess that move as ‘definitely a mistake’) was absurd.

    But I never saw it as anti-Hamilton. It was anti-McLaren, or pro-Ferrari… the drivers weren’t relevant.

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