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Hamilton faces inquiry over fan's YouTube video

Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren-Mercedes team will find out this afternoon whether the sport's world governing body, the FIA, is to cast more obstacles in their path to the world championship.

In characteristic 2007 fashion, "new evidence" – a spectator's video that has been running on the YouTube website – will be examined by the race stewards. It depicts the moment when Sebastian Vettel ran into the back of Mark Webber when they were running behind Hamilton and the safety car during last Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji. The race was won by Hamilton, but there are allegations that his driving might have been the cause of the incident.

Webber, who was taken out of second place by Vettel, strongly criticised the world championship leader yesterday. Both Webber and Vettel accused Hamilton of making a sudden lurch to the right which contributed to the accident.

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

Webber, who had been unwell before the race and, in the early laps, had been sick, claimed that the incident cost him his chance of winning for Red Bull for the first time in 101 starts.

"It was one of the lowest points of my career last weekend, in terms of being in a position to challenge for victory, and it was taken away not even in a racing incident," he said.

"It was very, very hard to swallow. It's under the bridge, it's gone and we'll never get that back."

Vettel, who claimed after the race to have been distracted by Hamilton slowing and running wide, again apologised to Webber.

"As a human being you react to movement," the Toro Rosso driver said. "I saw Lewis move far to the right and thought he was coming to a stop... I obviously did not plan to ruin both of our races."

Hamilton, however, had already radioed his team to ask them to tell Red Bull to get Webber to drop back, since the safety car was struggling to keep ahead of the cruising Formula One cars in the conditions. The stewards investigated after the race, exonerated Hamilton and penalised Vettel 10 grid places for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.

"When we were behind the second safety car, I was constantly on the radio to my engineers to tell the Red Bull team to get Mark [Webber] to make a little more of a gap because I couldn't go any faster because the pace car was in front of me, so I was trying to keep the distance with him and then I'd move over because I couldn't see Mark and then he'd just appear alongside me, so he kept outbraking himself. I felt something was going to happen, and I guess my instincts told me right."

Asked after the race about his apparently erratic driving behind the safety car, Hamilton said: "That wasn't really the case – we just needed to keep the heat in the brakes. I was running quite a hard compound of brakes, so if I did light braking, I would have glazed the brakes. So I was making sure there was a little bit of a gap, maximising the gap that you're allowed, and use it to my benefit. It was tough because Mark behind me was just too close, and all of a sudden he braked really hard."

Before the controversy arose yesterday Hamilton played down his chances of clinching the title this weekend. Effectively, if he finishes ahead of his team-mate, Fernando Alonso, and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen does not win, the crown is his.

"We are going into these races with a really tight drivers' battle with only 12 points between me and Fernando," he said. "Anything is still possible but I am feeling confident and very determined and I hope we will have another couple of exciting races. There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of days about the championship, but I just push that to the back of my mind. I am only focused on the next two races and doing the best I can in China and Brazil with the team.

"The last two races of this season are at tracks that I have not ever been to before. I don't see that as a problem, as this has been the case on four occasions already this season, at Melbourne, Montreal, Indy and Fuji and I was on the podium at all these races."

If he is found guilty this afternoon, the stewards are likely to levy a 10-grid place penalty, which will make his task all the more difficult.

Belfast Telegraph