Lewis Hamilton slams Russian GP penalties: 'They're trying to stop me'
Hamilton: "I'm pretty sure no one's got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before."; But was ruling fair?; Reaction from frustrated title leader, plus Mercedes and Sky F1 pundits
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 28/09/20 11:15am
Lewis Hamilton has slammed his penalties at the Russian GP as "ridiculous" and claims Formula 1 stewards are "trying to stop me" after finishing third behind Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen on Sunday.
Hamilton was handed two separate in-race 5s penalties in Sochi for a pre-race infraction, with the Englishman penalised for carrying out practice starts outside of the designated area in the pit-lane set out by the FIA.
The combined 10s penalty was confirmed during the race and pole-sitter Hamilton, after angrily reacting to the news on team radio, took it during his first pit-stop and then finished a long way behind Bottas and Verstappen.
Asked after the race if the penalty was harsh by Sky Sports F1's Natalie Pinkham, a visibly frustrated Hamilton insisted: "Of course it is. But it's to be expected. They're trying to stop me, aren't they."
Hamilton, whose title lead has been cut to 44 points and who missed out on a chance to equal Michael Schumacher's F1 win record, added: "I need to go back and see what the rules are, see exactly what I did wrong.
"I'm pretty sure no one's got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before.
"I didn't put anyone in danger, I've done this at a million tracks over the years and it's never been questioned."
Mercedes have also described the penalty as "harsh", although Sky F1's pundits do not share the same view.
Why was Hamilton penalised and was it fair?
The infringement in question came 35 minutes before the start of the race after the pit-lane opened, with Hamilton told by Mercedes via team radio that he could go further down the pit-lane for practice starts.
But soon after, Hamilton was under investigation by stewards for illegally doing so 'directly in the pit exit'.
He was then handed the penalties while leading the race from pole.
"The stewards said it's not the place where you would do a race start and I agree with that," contested Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. "But in the director's notes, you can make practice starts after the lights on the right hand side. And that's what he did.
Hamilton's radio messages with Mercedes during practice starts
|Lewis Hamilton:||"It's all rubber here, can I go further out?"|
|Lewis Hamilton:||"To the end of the pit wall?"|
|Mercedes:||"Yeah, copy. Try and leave enough room for cars to get past."|
"So there is room for interpretation and we clearly have to analyse why we made the mistake altogether and just take this one on the chin even though with the stewards, we agree to disagree."
The race director's notes for the Russian GP stated that practice starts must be carried out on the right-hand side after the pit exit lights but Hamilton said it "didn't say how far".
"I always start further down," he explained. "Never had a problem, done it for years. Often I don't like to be on the rubber, that's where everyone has done their starts and it's not representative of what it's like on the grid.
"So I try to get onto the surface that doesn't have any rubber."
Asked about Hamilton's 'trying to stop me' comments, Wolff added: "I think Lewis has faced a lot of adversity in his life and for all of us, the penalty seems a little harsh. Never before has a pre-race or reconnaissance lap infringement been penalised with an in-race penalty. That's new.
"Things go against him harshly sometimes. I guess if you're the most successful driver, you have to take that."
Sky F1 pundits on Hamilton penalties and reaction
Karun Chandhok: "There have been two occasions in three races now that Lewis has been caught out by something that we don't normally see drivers get a penalty for, it's been unusual in both instances.
"The one today, it confused me if I'm honest. Johnny and I, like Lewis, have driven at many, many racetracks around the world, and you knew you can't go that far down the pit-lane when everybody else is accelerating at full speed, and do a practice start. It's just something that the stewards are never going to let you get away with.
"Obviously the adrenaline is still pumping, he's still angry about it, he hasn't had time to digest and allow himself to come back down from the anger from the race. I'm sure if he goes to have a conversation with Michael Masi and the race stewards, I think he will understand, they're not out to get him. It did catch the other drivers by surprise.
"I'm sure once he sees the videos and understands, he will have a different view."
Johnny Herbert: "I'm not so sure [anyone's trying to stop him]. The time I've spent in the stewards' room there has never been any inkling of that. Where he said he'd started in that position many many times - there has always been a place, maybe for 20 years, where you start in that designated place. You can't go outside it."
The FIA stewards ruling
'The Stewards reviewed video evidence.
'The driver performed the practice start near the end, but directly in the pit exit. Art 36.1 requires drivers to use constant throttle and constant speed in the pit exit other than in the place designated for practice starts in the Event Notes item 19.1., which is defined as the place "on the right hand side" after the pit exit lights (and is not part of the track as defined by lines) which has been known to all competitors and used without exception.
'Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Article 10.1.1 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits.'