There are two different parts to the controversial incident in Spa between Hamilton and Raikkonen, and they’ve both got some fans very upset, for different reasons.
Should Hamilton have been penalised?
The first question is obviously whether the penalty should have applied in the first place. There are two very different schools of thought on this. The incident occurred when Hamilton cut across the chicane to avoid colliding with Raikkonen, and ended up in front of him. He had to return the position to the Ferrari, but as they were running down the straight at the time, it’s perceived he had the speed advantage to be able to take the place straight back. One side believe that Hamilton definitely had the advantage and therefore the penalty is valid. Others say that as Hamilton was fully behind the Ferrari, evidenced by the fact that Raikkonen pulled across in front of Hamilton down the straight, that the place had been fairly given back and no penalty should have been imposed.
There’s another argument to say that in the end, it the incident made little difference to the end result of the race, and therefore a penalty is not applicable. Raikkonen couldn’t control his car twice on the same lap, and ended up in the wall, therefore the damage was done by the rain, and not by Hamilton. I think I fall into this category, but I can understand every side of the argument and the strong feelings that the penalty is stirring up.
Should a driver be stripped of a win post-race?
Regardless of whether the penalty should have been imposed or not, the next important question is whether a driver should be stripped of a win after he crosses the line first. The podium ceremony, the press conference, the celebrations all become a farce, and championship-altering decisions can be made in a steward’s office. It’s not fair on fans to have to wait to see what the result of a race is going to be, having invested the time and energy into watching and understanding the action for two hours. To go away, and then return to find the result changed is an insult to fans.
However, the alternatives are few and far between. Delaying the podium ceremony wouldn’t work for TV companies and would mess up the post-race schedule. On weeks like this when there are back to back races, every minute is important for teams. Pushing any post-race penalties onto the next Grand Prix work to an extent, but when you get to the end of the season, you are still stuck with the same problem. I favour this idea, because to have just one race disturbed by post-race politics would be much more preferable than having this problem scattered through the season.