• European Grand Prix

Hamilton tells rivals to accept safety car rules

ESPNF1 Staff
June 28, 2010 « Livid Ferrari calls for safety car rule change | »

Lewis Hamilton has told Ferrari to "accept" the rules, after a safety car period ruined Fernando Alonso's and Felipe Massa's races at the European Grand Prix.

The safety car was called out after Mark Webber's huge accident and Hamilton broke the rules by overtaking it as it joined the track. Under the regulations drivers are not allowed to overtake it once it has passed the first safety car line, which is painted across the circuit where the pit lane merges with the race track.

However, the point of contention for Ferrari was that Hamilton hesitated in passing it and in doing so the two Ferraris got stuck behind the slow-moving safety car for a whole lap, ruining their strategies and dropping them down the order as they pitted for new tyres. To rub salt in the wounds Hamilton's drive-through penalty didn't lose him any positions, while Alonso and Massa missed out on potential podium finishes.

But Hamilton, who technically did nothing wrong, said that he had not acted deliberately and that all the teams had to accept the rules.

"Whenever a safety car comes out, it's difficult to compute all the information," he said. "There are all these beeps in your ear, and lights flashing on your dashboard too. There's got to be a certain time between the 'safety car 1' line and the 'safety car 2' [at the end of the lap] line, and between those two lines you can go fast. So it's all a bit complicated. So I pushed past the last safety car line, and was obviously then trying to close the gap to Seb [Vettel leading the race].

"But as I came out of the first corner, all of a sudden I saw the safety car coming out [of the pits], so I backed off and went across the line as I did that, so I thought I was okay. When the team told me I had a drive-through penalty, I made time by pushing as hard as I could, and was able to increase the gap a bit to the guys behind. I took my penalty - it's quite a long time to spend at 60km/h in the pit lane - and I came out second. I don't see how that's unfair - it's racing, and those are the rules, and we all have to accept them."

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh suggested that Hamilton's penalty could even be viewed as "marginal" and said that it had prevented his driver challenging for the win.

"We've accepted Lewis's penalty, but in truth we reckon it was a pretty marginal call," he said. "Okay, it didn't deprive him of his second place on the road, but it did prevent him from being able to take the race to Seb, which had been our intention. And I think Lewis's strong pace in the last few laps showed that, having saved his fuel and tyres early on in preparation for mounting an attack on Seb, he would probably have been in a position to have a fair old crack at it had he not been given a drive-through. So, yes, his penalty was frustrating for Lewis, frustrating for us, and ultimately I suppose you'd have to say it was frustrating for the spectators, at the track and in front of their TV screens, too. But, as I say, you have to accept these things and move on."