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Motor racing-Video clip threatens Hamilton's title tilt

SHANGHAI, Oct 5 (Reuters) Lewis Hamilton's hopes of securing the Formula One title in China this weekend could be scuppered by a video posted on the Internet.

The 22-year-old Briton, hoping to become the first rookie to win the championship, saw the stewards yesterday amid speculation he could face a 10-place penalty on the starting grid for Sunday's penultimate race of the season.

A spokeswoman for the governing International Automobile Fdeeration (FIA) said new evidence had emerged about a collision behind the safety car at last Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.

The stewards, assessing claims that Hamilton drove erratically, were to meet again today before coming to a decision.

''Hamilton's title dream now depends on YouTube video,'' Britain's Sun newspaper said in a comment echoed by other British newspapers.

''F1 chiefs not fit to run a garage,'' added another Sun headline.

Footage was posted on the YouTube video sharing Web site showing a collision between Red Bull's Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel of sister team Toro Rosso while following Hamilton in the wet at Fuji.

German rookie Vettel was deemed to have caused the collision and punished by stewards at Fuji with a 10-place penalty on the starting grid for this weekend's penultimate round of the season.

'SITTING IN JUDGEMENT' Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost, whose cars are powered by Ferrari engines, told the Autosport Web site that he had tipped off the stewards in Shanghai after being made aware of the footage.

''I want to see Vettel's grid penalty taken away because it is totally unfair,'' said Tost.

Both Webber and Vettel told a news conference at the Shanghai circuit yesterday that Hamilton had triggered the collision by slowing and pulling wide.

Had Webber passed Hamilton, albeit unintentionally, behind the safety car he would have been subjected to a drive through penalty and gone to the back of the field. He braked and Vettel, distracted, then ran into the back of him.

Hamilton leads team mate and double world champion Fernando Alonso by 12 points with two races remaining. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen is 17 points behind the Briton and the only other driver still mathematically in contention.

The stewards' decision to review the Fuji accident raised concern among some in the paddock.

''What is happening in China regarding Lewis Hamilton does not sit comfortably with me,'' former McLaren driver Mark Blundell wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

''It is a bit like sitting in judgment on a refereeing decision a week after a Premier League football match has finished.'' He highlighted the appalling conditions faced by drivers during that race, with standing water and walls of spray severely reducing visibility.

''It is extremely tough to second-guess what the drivers were thinking in conditions so extreme,'' said Blundell. ''It's a very tough call for the stewards to make today, especially with so much at stake.'' REUTERS TB BST1054

Story first published: Friday, October 5, 2007, 11:41 [IST]
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