Hamilton vs Massa in India 2011 – Who was at fault?

At the final round of the Vodafone Dmax Championships this Sunday, I asked each group of drivers in the briefing for a show of hands on who thought that the coming together between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa was:

a) Lewis’ fault     b) Felipe’s fault    c) A racing incident

Interestingly at all four briefings, there was a real split of opinions. This was weeks after the race and with the benefit of slow motion replays, multiple camera angles, interviews with both drivers, interviews with Johnny Herbert (the chief steward) and plenty of time to think about it.

Across the 86 drivers who I asked, there was probably a slight bias towards Hamilton as a lot of the Vodafone Dmax drivers are fans, but it was probably 40% Massa’s fault, 40% racing incident and 20% Hamilton’s fault.

I would remind you that this was two weeks after the incident – and after everyone had plenty of time to review all of the evidence – and still there were three different “correct” answers.

When I act as the Race Director/Clerk of the Course for the Vodafone Dmax series – and in fact, when all of our Race Directors supervise all of the track activities at all of our venues, they have a duty of care to supervise the racing and to apply the rules fairly. Often when there are incidents, the Race Director has to make a quick decision. He does have a team of marshals to provide him with witness statements and he can also interview drivers, but he also has to look after the safety of all the other drivers too so sometimes he has to use a penalty flag to bring a driver into the Pits, based on the evidence in front of him.

We aim to get it right every time. But we would suggest that the Hamilton Massa incident above shows just how difficult it is to always be right – especially when there is no “right” answer.

For the record, I reckon it was a racing incident. I would have had a word with both drivers afterwards about their actions but I would not have awarded a drive through penalty to either of them. However, this does not mean that I wouldn’t black flag you if you did the same (as either of them).

Jim Graham


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