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Hamilton cleared over Japan crash

  • Story Highlights
  • Lewis Hamilton is cleared of erratic driving in the Japanese GP
  • The FIA probed a crash between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber
  • Hamilton had been ahead behind the safety car
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LONDON, England -- Lewis Hamilton has escaped punishment after allegations of erratic driving behind the safety car in the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend.

Vettel ran into the back of Webber when they were racing behind Hamilton.

The FIA ruled that Hamilton would suffer no penalty after inquiring into the accident when Sebastian Vettel crashed into Mark Webber in Fuji.

Vettel's original 10-place penalty on the Chinese Grand Prix starting grid was replaced with a reprimand.

The stewards studied film of the incident, including amateur video footage, before announcing their verdict.

They said: "Having heard the explanation of all concerned and viewed both the original film of the incident which was available to stewards at Fuji as well as the new film, what has become apparent is the view clearly expressed by all drivers and team managers alike that the conditions at Fuji were exceptionally bad and worse than those experienced when the race starts behind the safety car.

"Because of those views, the stewards accept that it may be inappropriate to impose the penalty normally applied for an offence such as this.

"In the circumstances the stewards will reduce the penalty imposed on Vettel to a reprimand.

"The involvement of Lewis Hamilton in this incident has also been considered in the light of evidence given by him, his team manager and in particular all other parties present and no penalty is imposed upon him."

The 22-year-old British rookie, who drives for McLaren-Mercedes, leads the race for the world championship by 12 points, with two rounds left, and there had been speculation that he might lose some of those points if the FIA found him culpable.

Hamilton had strengthened his title bid with a superb victory at Fuji in appalling conditions which twice saw the safety car deployed.

As the field trailed behind the safety car on the second occasion, Toro Rosso's Sebastien Vettel drove into the back of Red Bull's Mark Webber, causing them both to retire.

The drivers, who were lying in second and third places behind Hamilton a the time of the accident, both criticized Hamilton for driving erratically and slowing up and down.

The incident was missed by television cameras but footage, taken from the grandstand, was shown on the YouTube Web site.

It appeared to show Hamilton pulling over to the right-hand side of the track and slowing down markedly, in turn forcing Webber to slow down, which caught Vettel on the hop.

Webber said: "It definitely contributed to Sebastian hitting me up the back because he (Hamilton) wasn't doing what he was supposed to be doing, clearly.

"He spoke in the drivers' meeting about how good a job he was going to do and he did the opposite. Still, we know for next time," added the Australian.

Webber stressed, however, that he had not complained to the stewards about the incident.

On Friday he issued a statement saying: " I would just like to make it clear that, although I criticized Hamilton's driving in yesterday's FIA Press Conference, at no time have I made any official complaint about anyone's driving following Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix."

Hamilton, speaking at practice for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, had protested his innocence before the verdict was announced.

"I had a good weekend, I didn't put a foot wrong. I didn't do anything to put anyone else in danger," he said.

"I've come away to China and all of a sudden I'm going to be punished for something.

"I just think it's a real shame for the sport. Formula One's supposed to be about hard, fair competition. That's what I've tried to do this year, just be fair.

"There's been some real strange situations this year where I'm made to look the bad person and, by the looks of it, this weekend be given a penalty.

"If this is the way it's going to keep going, it's not somewhere I really want to be." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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