Felipe Massa was penalised for the collision with Lewis Hamilton in India because it "could have been avoided".

That is the claim of former grand prix winner Johnny Herbert, who was serving as the fourth FIA steward at the inaugural Delhi race.

Although McLaren's beleaguered Hamilton is usually the one receiving the penalties at grands prix, Herbert said it was the embittered Massa who deserved the blame this time.

"It was clear that Massa knew where Hamilton was before he chose to turn across him," he wrote in his column for The National newspaper, citing evidence that the Brazilian looked into his mirrors.

Another former racer, BBC commentator David Coulthard, does not agree.

"I simply can't understand how Felipe could have been deemed the guilty party," he wrote in his Daily Telegraph column.

"As drivers we are always taught that the car behind is responsible so to my mind the stewards misinterpreted what happened."

Coulthard fears the stewards issued the penalty not objectively, but in the context of Hamilton and Massa's increasingly poisoned feud.

"It was almost as if they felt that - with Lewis receiving so many decisions against him this year - they were trying to redress the balance," he said.

Also critical of the decision is another former F1 driver and German television RTL pundit Christian Danner.

"It was Lewis' attack and it would have worked only if Massa had driven off the track," he said.

Even Hamilton's good friend Adrian Sutil agrees, telling Auto Motor und Sport that he thinks it was a racing incident and therefore an "unnecessary" punishment.

"I cannot quite understand why Felipe got it," he added.