Saturday, 27 August 2011
Maldonado rams Hamilton in Beligium Qualifying. In the second session, after both drivers had crossed the chequered flag, Maldonado, 26, deliberately rammed Hamilton's car, causing significant damage, and ending his own race chances.
After the session was over, whilst both drivers were returning to the pits, Pastor Maldonado, coming from behind, swept around Lewis Hamilton and then steered his William's car sharply into the side of the McLaren, in an unmistakable effort to cause as much damage as possible to the pole position contender.
On their final hot laps of a disrupted second session, both drivers were fighting to get into the top ten and secure a place in the final pole position shoot-out. Maldonado's team mate Barrichello made an error, which held up Maldonado, who was close behind. As a result at the final turn, he found himself alongside Hamilton, and neither driver could afford to lose any time. Hamilton was a nose ahead and the cars touched wheel on wheel, in a classic racing incident as they tried to occupy the same piece of tarmac. Hamilton completed the lap achieving pole position, despite the incident, and Maldonado failed to improve his time to achieve tenth.
It was then that he succumbed to road rage, and rammed the McLaren. Hamilton's car was severely damages with many aero parts flying off. His front wing was replaced, and the body work patched up with gaffer tape to enable him to compete in the final session where he briefly held pole position, despite his car being slowed down by damage Maldonado inflicted, before being beaten on the last lap by an astounding time by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who once again secured pole. It's entire possible that without Maldonado's attempt to take him out of the race, Hamilton might well have achieved pole position.
The last time a driver deliberately caused a crash, was when Renault, ordered Nelson Piquet, Jr. to crash in order to enable a poor performing Alonso take the lead from 20th, as all the other cars pitted, having himself pitted suspiciously early, and win the race. Nelson Piquet was given immunity by the FIA in return for providing incriminating testimony against the team's owner and manager, but has never driven in F1 since.
It seems likely that Maldonado's career will similarly be over, for deliberately causing an avoidable accident, attempting to alter the outcome of a race by preventing Hamilton from continuing in qualifying, actually altering the outcome of qualifying by damaging Hamilton's car, and most importantly of all deliberating endangering the life of himself and fellow drivers. Regardless of any penalties, it's hard to see how he can retain his racing license, given that he is clearly a danger to fellow participants.
Jenson Button was knocked out of qualifying, in an eventful final lap of the second session after he had himself returned to the pits, only to be see some amazing improvement in times from the cars out on track knocking him from 6th to 13th at the very end of the session.
UPDATE: Maldonado has denied that he intentionally rammed Hamilton's car, saying that the "cause will have to be investigated" and suggesting that "humid weather" may have been a factor. However, the video footage shows that he steered into the McLaren, rather than veering into him as a result of asymmetrical traction, or a skid. Several seasoned observers hold that the incident was so serious that it justified a harsher penalty, but it seems the marshals have given him the benefit of the doubt, and handed him a routine 5 place penalty for causing an avoidable accident. It seem unlikely that he will receive further sanction, although this reporter is shocked that a driver can drive into another car in that way, whilst not actually racing, whether intentionally, or through carelessness, and be considered a suitable holder of a racing license. It condones dangerous driving and sends completely the wrong message to drivers.