McLaren have said they intend to fight the punishment that stripped Lewis Hamilton of his Belgian Grand Prix win.

Stewards hit the Englishman with a 25-second penalty, demoting him to third, for cutting a chicane as he battled with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

McLaren said they would appeal on the grounds that Hamilton had immediately ceded the position back to Raikkonen.

Triple world champion Niki Lauda has described the stewards’ decision as “the worst judgement in F1 history”.

“It is the most perverted judgment I have ever seen,” said the Austrian, who won the title for both Ferrari and McLaren.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable when three functionaries (the stewards) influence the championship like this.”

A McLaren spokesman said: “Having passed the lead back to Kimi, Lewis repositioned, moving his car across and behind Kimi to the right-hand line.

“He then outbraked him into the hairpin. We intend to appeal.”

McLaren have seven days to decide whether to go ahead with the appeal.

If they do, it would be formally lodged by the UK’s national sporting authority, the Motor Sports Association, with Formula One’s governing body the FIA.

There is also some debate about whether the rules allow for teams to appeal against a time penalty – but that would be decided by the FIA court of appeal if the case comes before it.

The incident that led to the penalty arrived at the end of lap 42 as the rain Hamilton had been praying for duly arrived.

It allowed F1’s wet-weather king to reel in leader Raikkonen and on the approach to the Bus Stop chicane, he had the Finn in his sights.

If there’s a penalty, then there’s something wrong because I was ahead going into that corner, so I didn’t gain an advantage from it
Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton darted around the outside, both drivers locked up their brakes on entry and Hamilton took evasive action by using a run-off area to his left.

The rules say drivers are not allowed to gain an advantage by cutting a chicane.

Returning to the track in the lead, the 23-year-old knew he had to yield his position, otherwise he would have been duly penalised.

Hamilton appeared to do so, with Raikkonen crossing the start-finish line narrowly ahead, before Hamilton dived across the track to the inside and overtook the Ferrari into the La Source hairpin.

But race stewards Nicholas Deschaux, Surinder Thatti and Yves Bacquelaine saw things differently.

The McLaren spokesman said: “We looked at all our data and also made it available to the FIA stewards.

“It showed that, having lifted [off the accelerator], Lewis was 6kph slower than Kimi as they crossed the start-finish line.

“Based on this data, we have no option other than to register our intention to appeal.

“We are a racing team and we will now focus on Monza (the Italian Grand Prix next Sunday), with a view to extending our lead in the drivers’ world championship.”

Despite his joy at the apparent win, describing his fight with Raikkonen as “one of the most exciting for a long time”, Hamilton perhaps had an inkling as to what might transpire.

606: DEBATE
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Asked prior to the penalty whether he would be surprised if the stewards did punish him, Hamilton replied: “If there’s a penalty, then there’s something wrong because I was ahead going into that corner, so I didn’t gain an advantage from it.

“We were still able to race at the next corner and I gave him his spot back and I think it was fair and square.”

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali was thrilled with the turn of events, however, and stated: “I have often said the race is not over until the official results are published and that was the case today.”

Not for the first time this season Hamilton has incurred the wrath of the stewards.

Hamilton’s first punishment was in the third race of the season in Bahrain, where he and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen were handed five-place grid penalties for impeding other drivers in qualifying.

Hamilton was then demoted 10 places for the French Grand Prix after driving into the back of Raikkonen in the pit lane in the previous race in Canada.

Add the drive-through penalty in Magny-Cours and a 5,000 euros fine for being late to a press conference in Valencia a fortnight ago, and it has been a controversial year for Hamilton.

But win or lose the appeal, he still has a lead going into the final five races of the season.

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