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We’ve been discussing the incident between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa for the last few days with differing opinions on the collision. The FIA’s veteran driver program places former F1 drivers in the role of Steward for the race and the inaugural Indian Grand Prix had Johnny Herbert on duty at the Buddh Circuit last Sunday.

The stewards deemed Felipe Massa at fault in the incident and according to Herbert, there was justifiable reasons for doing so as he told The National:

“The decision to penalize Felipe Massa for his contact with Lewis Hamilton came down to one simple fact – it could have been avoided”.

Some of the discussion has been on the avoidable nature of the incident and the unyielding nature both drivers seem to have with each other given their history of six collisions so far this season. Herbert said the situation was avoidable and that Massa could have gone wide:

“You could see that Massa looked in his side mirror, so he knew Hamilton was on his left as they approached the left-hand turn. It appeared he was giving up the corner as he moved wide to the right, effectively opening the door for Hamilton to go down the inside on the left.

Only, Massa swept across in front of him, leading to contact.

There was nothing Hamilton could have done to avoid it. He did try to get out of the move, but it was too late and the contact was made.

Massa knew where Hamilton was, he opened the door for him by moving wide, and after doing that he still swept across and did not give Hamilton room. That’s why the decision was made to punish him with a drive-through penalty.”

Does that change your opinion of the incident? Does it add clarity as to why Massa was penalized? Do you agree with the logic? Let us know your thoughts.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Christian

    “You could see that Massa looked in his side mirror, so he knew Hamilton was on his left as they approached the left-hand turn. It appeared he was giving up the corner as he moved wide to the right, effectively opening the door for Hamilton to go down the inside on the left.”

    Uhm, to me, it simply appears like Massa is looking to get through the corner with maximum speed on the racing line, and therefore went a little to the outside – as did Hamilton. Still, I feel this was a normal racing incident, and would say both are equally to be blamed. From Lewis, the move was risky, Massa defended his line being in front, which in this situation obviously also involved a high risk. No need for penalties.

  • mark h

    I’ve got to say that this call absolutely baffled me. I would have been happiest to see no penalty assigned (any other two drivers and I’m certain no action would have been taken), but had thought the question was whether or not Lewis would be punished.

    Was interesting, therefore, to hear Paul coming at it from a rather different angle on the show this week.

  • formulasfera

    Massa never gives room, so a penalty has to be given.

    It’s not the case with Webber-Hamilton, Alonso-Vettel, etc.

    • Williams4Ever

      Thanks for the update. Didn’t knew driver go on the race track to give room.
      It takes two to tango. If Lewis was more assertive and outbraked massa he would have made a clean pass. Watch the incident video again, Lewis was equally hestitant the moment he was in wake of Massa’s car.

      I would have fully blamed Massa if Lewis had the racing line and Massa would have punted him off the racing line.

      Its just that they keep tangling with each other so much that they are both nervous running around each other and racing incidents will be more frequent between them.

      Its time someone authoritative speaks with them. Best would be both of them to go on Karting track and race each other and become more comfortable driving around each other.
      Maybe Massa should invite Lewis to his year end charity Go Karting event.

      • F1Sommelier

        Lewis would take that as an opportunity to ask anyone there from Ferrari if he could have a job with them next year. ;-)

  • Massa was clearly at fault here. And he knew full well where Hamilton was and what Hamilton was attempting.

    While, granted, Hamilton has made his share of blunders this season, it’s kind of unfair to pin this one on him. He did similar to Kobayashi a while back in similar circumstances, and to say he was guilty both then and now is to ignore that the driver defending has no right (under current rules) to make more than one move per corner. If Massa commits to a corner with a wide line, showing that he knows full well there’s a car on the inside line, he has to keep that space constant.

    At this point, we know Hamilton’s head is not in its proper place, but it’s time to start questioning (again) where Massa’s head is at. He’s had a horrible season, and when he’s behind, he just seems to completely fall apart. Having an ongoing feud with Hamilton (quoth Smedley: “Ruin his race…”) gives him something to blame a bad season on…

    • Williams4Ever

      Massa was clearly at fault here. And he knew full well where Hamilton was and what Hamilton was attempting.
      >> So if you are Ferrari boss, would you want your driver to lift off so that competitors can make a “SAFE PASS”?

      What everybody has agreed in this incident is
      a) between the two, Massa had outbraked in the corner.
      b) Massa was on the racing line.

      On a left hand corner driver is expected to drive toward left and which is what he was doing.

    • Luigi

      I´m sorry Niky, but I have to disagree with you. It´s not a matter about knowing where somebody is, it is a matter about knowing something about motor racing. Massa had the line and outbraked Hamilton. It was his corner, not Lewis´. He did what he should have done and what any other racing driver in the world (Johnny Herbert included) would have done in that situation. Stick to the line.

  • Williams4Ever

    Herbert said the situation was avoidable and that Massa could have gone wide
    >> What kind of steward tells driver a driver to leave the track? Going wide on a left hander at that point meant leaving the track. I am not sure Ferrari would be happy if their driver leaves track goes off track damages car/tyres (Massa’s car setup was not exactly having fun with kerbs all through the weekend). And all this for what to help a competitor to pass him by?

    This was a purpose built track so there is run-off area, would Herbert ask the driver to go wide off racing line even at Monaco, Canada and Melbourne??

    While everybody has a say about drivers and driving standards, Herberts statement is atrocious both as a steward as well as someone who has done oval racing.

    Stewards are humans, will make mistake, but this is simply disappointing.

    • Tony Greene

      My question is this, though: how often is a pass made where the passer stays on the racing line? The driver coming by almost always moves off line, so to say that Massa had the right of way because he was on the racing line does not give this incident credit imho.

      • Michael in Seattle

        No, but out-braking the other driver, and, being a full 3/4 car length ahead at the turn-in point, does. The corner was Massa’s. The penalty, IMHO, was for extreme cantankerousness (not giving quarter) to a slightly faster car (the car may be faster, but it is the driver’s responsibility to find a safe way around, is it not?). DRS mentality is setting in, across the board, I fear.

  • Luigi

    It could have been avoided? If that´s the case, it could have been avoided by both. Why is Massa the one to blame? He´s got the line, he brakes later than Hamilton (LH onboard cam clearly shows it) and then what? He´s got drive off the line to LET Hamilton pass? This is a joke.

  • F1Sommelier

    I have a genuine question, ” so because Lewis got his nose on the inside of him going into the turn it was up to Massa to concede to the pass?”.

    • Luigi

      Hi F1Sommelier, just watch the video (LH´s onboard cam is the best option) and you will see that Massa – who´s got the racing line – brakes later than Hamilton. Clearly. He had the line, more than half a car ahead of LH towards the apex. It was his corner.

      • F1Sommelier

        Make’s sense. I guess all the race baiting and complaining about the stewards is starting to pay off for Lewis.

    • Luigi

      Sorry, I didn´t answer your question. The way they were positioned on the track, YES, it was up to Massa to concede because Massa had the line and was at front, more than half a car ahead towards the apex.

    • Williams4Ever

      got his nose on the inside of him going into the turn
      >> Well at Turkey 2010, Vettel passed Webber (his rear tyres were in line with Webber’s front tyres)and turned towards right to get ready for the next corner and the it was still deemed Vettel’s fault. More I look at F1 penalties, more I get frustrated with Stewarding, with Pundits and even the fans, everybody is so inconsistent :-(

      • UAN

        Turkey 2010 is kind of funny, because that incident really is a whole different category than just racing (more like Senna/Prost in Japan 1990 or, again in Turkey, but in 2007, with Alonso sitting in the box not moving with Hamilton behind him in qualifying). It was an intrateam squabble and they weren’t acting like racing drivers in that moment (at least Webber really wasn’t).

        But just a lap later after the Vettel/Webber incident, Hamilton retook the lead from Button going into turn 1 in a very similar manner to India, except Button left his line to go wide to a avoid a crash, and there was still contact. Hamilton loves to shove his car into the inside corner and either bully his way through or, like Monza last year, make contact (again with Massa :). Thinking about it, the move in India was similar to the Maldonado incident in Monaco.

        I’m inclined to side with Massa on this when he said he saw Lewis, out braked him (and Lewis confirms this by saying he was trying to back out of the move) and didn’t expect Lewis to still be there. I think there was misjudgments on both sides and that it was a racing incident. Herbert’s comment make it sound like Massa deliberately hit Lewis, which I don’t think is the case (basically “Massa knew Hamilton was there, set him up in fact to be there, and then turned in on him”).

  • F1 Kitteh

    I like Herbert but Massa moving to the right means he’s giving up the corner?!?? WTF !?? Doesn’t the racing line for a left hander go from right to apex to right..

  • AnklaX

    Its still a wrong decision. There should have been no penalties. Massa moved right only to nail that racing line which he had to as Lewis was close to him. He could have thought that there is no way Lewis can take me in this corner but he may follow through closely to make an attempt to pass in upcoming corners. If Massa thought so, he would have done the right thing. Maybe he thought Lewis car would be able to hold on to its line and they would go side by side. Maybe Massa thought Lewis will be able to slow down in time to not touch him. Defending his position in his mind first an foremost. So maybe instinctively the thought of making way for Hamilton did not come to mind. So even if that was an avoidable contact which it was, it did not come to Massa’s thought for which you can not really blame him. It could be an honest driver mistake. Maybe it is Hamilton’s fault because after all this between them he should know by now that Massa is going to close the door forcibly. Maybe Massa should learn by now that Hamilton would back down.

    How many maybe did I write? There is really no way to tell for sure who should be penalized so I think stewards should have let it go as a racing incident. Its a matter of the two drivers differ in how they perceive an attack/defense racing situation. And of course there were just genuine mistakes made by both. The two should be just let off with a warning by the stewards.

  • AnklaX

    There are two type of racing drivers. One that can race close to the other driver and not bitch and moan later and blame his competitor of dangerous driving. For example, Senna, shumacher, Hakkinen, alonso, Mansell etc. Then there are those who do like Hill, HERBERT, Button(not any more), etc. Thats why Massa got a penalty.

  • Schmorbraten

    hmmm … so from this discussion I gather that Hamilton had the right to stick to his line, and Massa had that right, too … hmmm.

    Whether you ask drivers, stewards or fans about collisions, penalties, who has what rights to take whatever line etc., there’s always some unwritten rule in racing which can be used to argue either position.

    So what do we have got?

    – the “just one move off the racing line” rule, with the exception (some say, some don’t) that a driver is allowed to go back to the racing line before entering a corner

    – the “guy behind has the responsibility to make a safe pass without contact” rule

    – the “whoever brakes later and has the nose in front has earned the right to the corner” rule

    – the “you have to give the other guy enough room if you know he’s already alongside you” rule

    – the “leading guy has the right to stick to the racing line regardless” rule

    – the “no-one is at fault if it’s a normal racing accident” rule

    – the “several moves ARE allowed if a driver just tries to break the tow (instead of ‘defending’ in close proximity to another car)” rule

    … I could go on. And then sometimes people argue about a certain move or contact being intentional or not, and whether that should be taken into account, or whether that could be proven, …

    Why has no sporting body so far cared for clearing this up? You can’t say the leading driver has a right to stick to the racing line and at the same time tell him to leave room.

    I hate to see penalties being given or not, without consistency and without any sort of professional approach to putting out a clear set of rules which don’t contradict one another like we’ve got now.

    And even if there are no collisions to judge on, this has also got huge ramifications on the perennial conundrum of overtaking. A lot of times a driver doesn’t even try an overtake because he knows he’d be held responsible for any crash that might result if the driver in front sticks to the racing line, and that the driver in front would somehow be confirmed in having a “right of way”, just because he was in front before.

  • Big Theo

    bottom line – hamilton was never ahead. He never had the right. that’s it.
    massa was in front, and turned into the corner. hamilton was there and did not yield and hit massa. even in a road car accident its usually the car with the front end damage’s fault, and i can see no way at all how this is any different.

  • Anti-Stall Device

    If Schumacher had to leave “enough space” for Hamilton at Monza, then Massa needed to do the same in India.

    • Williams4Ever

      Schumacher had to leave enough space on the straight by not changing racing lines constantly(where he was on the borderline). One you are past braking zone there is only one racing line into the corner.

      While BIC has two corners with multiple racing lines , T3 and T16, this particular incident happened in the T4-5-6-7 complex which don’t have multiple lines into a corner feature.

      So it was not as if Massa was weaving around and preventing Lewis the space he needed. Based on their recent history, Lewis was bit tentative into the braking zone, as a result Massa outbraked him was the first car into corner. Massa has no choice but to turn into the corner from that point. Herbert’s logic of “Having options” is simply ridiculous

  • FiFi

    Very clearly Lewis’ fault. Massa was in front and Lewis should have been able to pass without contact. He has done this many times this season and expects to get off with it. He blames everyone else but himself. To my mind, a good F1 driver should be able to overtake without contact. Just take a look at how Jenson races. He does not crash into cars he is trying to ovetake.
    Take the penalty off Massa!!!

  • Formula1Mad

    If the a driver has got part of his car alongside you and you turn in on him then there’s always only going be one result. That’s been the same since the first GP ever held and will continue to be forever more. If you don’t want to have a collission then don’t turn into another car, at the end of the day you’re going to suffer just as much as the other driver.

    I’m getting fed up with all the judges – amateur or professional – the drivers are big boys and should be left to get on with the job of racing.

  • Eric

    I haven’t had a chance to watch the race yet, but I already know what David Hobbs thought. If Hamilton is involved, the other driver is at fault. That man adds nothing to Speed’s coverage.

    • F1Sommelier

      I actually like Hobbs, but your right Eric for a professional commentator he sure is biased when it comes to Lewis. for example when he got the yellow flag penalty, I knew Hobbs was going defend Lewis and sure enough he did.

    • williams4ever

      I am so much hurt reading these views about Hobbs. Week in week out he provides the same level of entertainment to Speed viewers that Rowan Atkinson did over the world feed by his reaction to Lewis-Felipe inside :-)

      Entertaining can be such a thankless job :-(.

      PS – Hobbs is second reason I don’t watch races on Speed, First being the irritating commercial breaks….

  • Steven

    Whas ironic to me is the fact that if the places were reversed all the people now defending Massa would be calling bloody murder and asking that the FIA reboke Lewis’s super license.
    Nobody seems to remember Monza, where lewis could have just punted Schumy out of the way, yet he kept his cool, or korea where Lewis and Webber had a clean fight,.yes, leaving room for eachother. If we look at that it clearly shows Feipe to be the dirty driver. Is Hamilton agressive? Too agressive for his own detriment sometimes? you bet!! But not dirty….

    • F1Sommelier

      What you call aggressive someone else would call dirty and vise versa.

      • dude

        Actually Schumacher had defined multiple times a very clear line of what dirty driving are.

        • Jose Arellano

          He didnt outbraked him completely. and the proof of that is the collision itself… at one point they where side by side.. if massa gave hamilton room the next corner was his anyway…

  • Chris

    The reason why Massa was given the penalty is because he turned in on Hamilton and braced himself for the bump which duly came. He knew full well that there was going to be a collision and because of the history between them either didn’t care or thought Hamilton would either break his car or receive a drive thru.
    What people don’t allude to is that 1) Hamilton can’t simply disappear into thin air despite both him and the telemetary showing he tried to back out and 2) no one is saying that Massa has to drive off the track. Clearly he was in front after braking later, but as it was clear Hamilton would still be there all Massa had to do was leave 1 car width at the apex. If he had done this he would have still exited the corner in front of Hamilton – sure probably slower on the exit, but this was the start of a complex where there is nowhere to pass so should have been able to stay ahead till the next straight.
    The fact that Massa left no room at the apex meant the collision was inevitable when if he had left some room it would have been avoidable hence the penalty (even thou this was probably a bit harsh and should have gone down as a racing incident).

    • Jose Arellano

      agree, i meant to post my earlier comment here. sorry