Mat Coch writes:
Former racer Johnny Herbert has hit back at suggestions the penalty meted out to Ferrari's Felipe Massa during last weekend's Indian Grand Prix was unfair. Massa had been defending the advances of Lewis Hamilton before the pair clashed - not for the first time in 2011 - leaving Hamilton with a damaged nose.
Herbert, acting driver steward for the event, was involved in handing Massa a drive through penalty for the incident, a decision which has sparked heated debate among experts, pundits and fans alike.
"We looked at replays to see if a punishment should be given for the incident," Herbert revealed in an article for The National. "After looking at it from different camera angles and studying all the data available to us, it was clear that Massa knew where Hamilton was before he chose to turn across him."
The former Grand Prix winner went on to suggest that despite the Brazilian's claims to the contrary, he was fully aware of where Hamilton was leading up to the incident. The Englishman also suggests that the Ferrari driver coaxed Hamilton in to the move by leaving space on the inside before closing the door on the McLaren driver.
"You could see that Massa looked in his side mirror," Herbert explained, "so he knew Hamilton was on his left as they approached the left-hand turn. It appeared he was giving up the corner as he moved wide to the right, effectively opening the door for Hamilton to go down the inside on the left.
"Only, Massa swept across in front of him, leading to contact," he continued. "There was nothing Hamilton could have done to avoid it. He did try to get out of the move, but it was too late and contact was made.
"If Massa had not gone wide that would have been a different scenario altogether. If there had been contact then, the blame would have been Hamilton's.
"But as it happened, the incident could have been avoided. Massa knew where Hamilton was, he opened the door for him by moving wide, and after doing that he still swept across and did not give Hamilton room. That's why the decision was made to punish him with a drive-through penalty."
Massa ultimately retired from the race with suspension failure after running over a kerb, while Hamilton recovered to seventh.