Opinion split on Lewis Hamilton penalty as Red Bull left with ‘big hole’ – F1 news round-up

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton trails Sergio Perez. Belgium July 2023. F1 news

Sergio Perez leads Lewis Hamilton out of La Source during the sprint. Spa-Francorchamps July 2023.

It was a busy Sprint Saturday at Spa-Francorchamps, with plenty of F1 news to dissect from the paddock from the day’s action.

The weather more than played its part as it delayed both the Sprint Shootout and Sprint itself, but what eventually came was a nail-biting dash around Belgium.

Here’s a look at the biggest and best headlines to come from the day as the Belgian Grand Prix weekend ramped up that little bit further.

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher and Sam Cooper

Lewis Hamilton punished for ‘ruining’ Sergio Perez’s Sprint

Lewis Hamilton was given a five-second penalty after colliding with Sergio Perez during the Sprint, with the two having gone side-by-side through Curve Paul Frere at high speed.

Perez had run wide through Stavelot and Hamilton moved up the inside for the following corner, but the two made contact and the FIA found him culpable of causing a collision, which dropped him down from fourth on the road to seventh once the time was added.

Perez was not best pleased after having to retire as a result, claiming Hamilton “ruined” his race with the move.

He told media including PlanetF1.com afterwards: “He just took the whole right-hand side of the car, he damaged the floor and the sidepod so that was game over. We lost too much grip with it.

“He just, I think, ran out of grip and could not stop his car, and just went into the side of me and damaged my floor, and that was very unfortunate.”

Read more: Lewis Hamilton ‘ruined’ Sergio Perez’s race with big damage to RB19 car

Christian Horner reveals Hamilton blew a ‘big hole’ in the Red Bull RB19

Given the extent of the damage initially caused Perez to lose rear grip and plummet down the order, it later transpired the contact with Hamilton left the RB19 with a hole in its sidepod, causing a big loss in downforce.

This was terminal for Perez’s chances in the sprint, having been fighting for a podium position at the time behind Pierre Gasly,

“Unfortunately, the contact – left-front to sidepod – has put a big hole in the sidepod and you lose so much downforce,” Horner explained to Sky Sports F1.

“You could see he really lost a huge amount of performance, so we had no choice but to retire the car. That was very unfortunate.”

Read more: Christian Horner: Lewis Hamilton ‘put a big hole’ in Sergio Perez’s sidepod

Martin Brundle asks ‘what is racing?’ if Hamilton was penalised for such a thing

Some Formula 1 fans felt Hamilton was unfairly penalised for the move, with Hamilton himself holding no regrets for going for the gap on Perez.

Sky Sports analyst and long-time F1 driver Martin Brundle was firmly in the camp of believing it was a racing incident, believing that to be the case at the time of the incident – and doubling down once he saw further footage.

He explained on Sky F1: “Lewis had claimed the corner, there was an error the corner before by Perez, and he was on the inside. Yes, the car did understeer a little bit.

“What is racing? If that’s not racing and therefore a racing incident, I don’t know. It wasn’t Lewis launching an impossible move, he was on the inside of the corner.”

Read more: Martin Brundle questions ‘what is racing?’ after ‘harsh’ Lewis Hamilton penalty

Oscar Piastri makes waves with excellent performance at the front

But for all the chatter away from the front, let’s not lose sight of the fact that McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri led his very first laps of a Formula 1 race (kind of, but we’ll count it even though it was a Sprint).

He took a sterling front-row start, just 0.011s off Max Verstappen’s pole time in the Sprint Shootout on Saturday morning, before diving into the pits when the race got going in flying conditions and undercut the Red Bull driver for the lead of the race.

Fernando Alonso’s crash brought out the Safety Car and pulled the field back together again, allowing Verstappen an easier overtake once things got back going, but an excellent P2 finish raised a few eyebrows – not least from Verstappen himself.

The reigning World Champion told media including PlanetF1.com: “I mean, I’ve been in that position as well, where the younger guy comes in. It’s nice and it’s great and Oscar’s having a very strong season in general.

“But I think also this weekend, he has been really on it. So it’s always nice to, for the first time, basically race him.”

Read more: Max Verstappen delivers Oscar Piastri verdict as ‘young guy’ bursts onto F1 scene

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Podium finisher left concerned after he ‘didn’t feel safe’ at Sprint start

Pierre Gasly dedicated his superb P3 finish in the Sprint to his close friend Anthoine Hubert, who tragically lost his life at Spa in 2019, and with young FRECA racer Dilano van ‘t Hoff having also lost his life at the circuit only a few weeks ago in wet conditions, the FIA were understandably conscious of taking a safety first approach.

This led to a delayed start as a heavy downpour came over the circuit, before five formation laps behind the Safety Car to clear as much standing water from the track as possible.

But even for Gasly, who started in P6, he felt like he was barely able to see when the rolling start eventually happened.

“You’ve got to ask all 20 drivers based on what they felt, but I could not see a thing,” he told media including PlanetF1.com.

“If Oscar or Max was in the middle of the straight, I would’ve been straight into him. I just couldn’t even see 10, 20 metres ahead of me.

“Even when we were all warming up the tyres and stuff, you are just hoping for the best. I didn’t feel safe.”

Read more: Concerns raised as Pierre Gasly didn’t ‘feel safe’ in Spa sprint start