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It all goes wrong for Hamilton in Magny-Cours 22 Jun 2008

Hamilton begins a charge, but misses the corner after pushing too hard Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren MP4/23.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Magny-Cours, France, Saturday, 21 June 2008

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton always knew he was going to have a tough weekend at Magny-Cours, after picking up a ten-place grid penalty for his pit-lane misdemeanour in Canada, but he probably didn’t think it would be quite this tough.

Even starting 13th, Hamilton was at least hoping for points, but after 70 laps of the French Grand Prix circuit the Englishman trailed home a lowly tenth, thanks in large part to a drive-through penalty for straight-lining Turn Seven on lap one as he completed a pass on Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton - and McLaren - believed he had already completed the pass before being forced wide over the chicane, but the stewards disagreed and decided he had gained an advantage. When he took the penalty on lap 13, he dropped from P9 to P13, effectively ending his chances of a top-eight finish.

“My drive-through penalty was an extremely close call: I felt I’d got past Vettel fairly and was ahead going into the corner,” said Hamilton. “But I was on the outside and couldn’t turn-in in case we both crashed, then I lost the back-end and drove over the kerb.”

The only consolation for McLaren was a storming drive from Heikki Kovalainen, who himself had taken a five-place grid drop for impeding another driver during qualifying. The Finn came from tenth on the grid to finish fourth, with only some excellent defensive driving from Toyota’s Jarno Trulli keeping him off the podium.

The result means Hamilton drops to fourth place in the drivers’ championship on 38 points, 10 behind new leader Felipe Massa, while Kovalainen lies sixth on 20.