Lewis Hamilton expressed his frustration after the Russian Grand Prix, having been handed two five second time penalties for incidents which occurred before the race.
By the time Hamilton lined up his W11 in pole position on the grid on Sunday he was already under investigation by the race stewards. There seemed to be some confusion from the Mercedes team as to where practice starts should take place.
Hamilton was told over the radio that he should head further down the pit lane to complete his practice starts, which turned out to be a critical error.
It had been stated in the Directors’ notes that pre-race practice starts should have been performed in a designated area before leaving the pit lane.
However, Hamilton had completed his two after the exit of the pit lane.
He was subsequently handed two five second time penalties and two penalty points on his super licence for the separate incidents.
This meant that when the championship leader came into the pits for his only stop of the race, the Mercedes mechanics had to wait 10 seconds before they could start work on the car, costing valuable time. He had been leading the race prior to this, but lost his position whilst in the pits.
Hamilton ended the race third, whilst his teammate, Valtteri Bottas went on to win and despite congratulating him after, it was clear that the six-time world champion was not pleased.
“I’m pretty sure no one’s got two five second penalties for something so ridiculous before.” Hamilton said after the race.
“I didn’t put anyone in danger. I’ve done this at a million tracks over the years and never been questioned on it. It is what it is.”
When asked by Sky F1 whether two penalty points were excessive, Hamilton responded, “Of course it is. They’re trying to stop me aren’t they? But it’s ok, I just need to keep my head down and stay focused and we’ll see what happens.”
Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff was also puzzled at the severity of the penalties and argued that ambiguity led to the infringement of the rules. “They (stewards) said it’s not the place where you do a race start and I agree with that, but in the Director’s notes it says you can make practice starts after the lights on the right hand side, and that’s what he did.
“There’s room for interpretation and clearly we have to analyse why we made the mistake and just take this one on the chin.
“I think Lewis has faced a lot of adversity in his life and to all of us the penalty seems a little harsh. I think things go against him harshly sometimes and if you’re the most successful driver, you have to take that sometimes.
“Clearly, we’ve had two incidents, here and in Monza, where we have made mistakes, and learning from these will only make us stronger in the long run.
“Nevertheless, we increased our Championship advantage with a strong result and now look ahead to the Nürburgring.”
In a recent update, the race stewards have since rescinded the two penalty points which had been handed to Hamilton, after Mercedes argued that it was not the driver that made the mistake, but them, and Hamilton was only following instructions.
The stewards acknowledged this and removed the imposition of the penalty points on Hamilton’s licence.