What looked set to be Lewis Hamilton’s 91st Formula 1 victory at the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday ended up turning into a controversy involving the driver, who was punished for doing two practice starts before the race in prohibited places, and the stewards of the test. The Briton spared no words in criticizing the decision, and was hit by Mika Salo, ex-F1 and one of the race stewards.
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Former pilot, Finnish Mika Salo was one of the race stewards this Sunday – Photo: AOP
– Bullshit. This (Hamilton’s accusations) is by no means true. The rules are the same for everyone. It was very clear: Hamilton trained his starts on that side of the track. The last was close to the white line that marks the end of the pits’ exit – defended the Finnish Mika Salo, who raced for F1 between 1994 and 2002.
The Mercedes driver took the penalty during the race, remaining ten seconds in the pits and allowing RBR’s Bottas and Max Verstappen to take the top positions. The six-time champion still managed to secure the last place on the podium after making a recovery run, finishing in third.
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Punished, Lewis Hamilton was only third in the Russian GP – Photo: Dmitry Feoktistov TASS via Getty Images
Although the scenario indicates that the chances of another victory for Hamilton may have been hindered by the penalty, his colleague, Valtteri Bottas, disagrees. The Finn, who now has two victories in Russia, defended the punishment received by his teammate and said he believed he would be able to win even without the controversy surrounding the current championship leader:
– We always have a meeting on exactly where start training should be done. The team shows us the place, and that’s where I did my training. I think it’s quite simple. And when Lewis stopped and I was in the lead, I was able to open a good advantage, so I don’t think that (the punishment) would have changed the result much. Perhaps he had been second.
Racing director of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), Michael Masi admitted that points in Hamilton’s super-license were replaced by a € 25,000 fine (about R $ 160,000) for Mercedes after the stewards considered the punishment previous one was “inappropriate”. However, he defended the integrity of the body responsible for running the races, stressing that Hamilton knew the rules.
– Lewis followed his team’s instructions. Yes, it was him driving the car, but one factor that contributed to this was that his team recommended him to do what he did. When someone breaks the rules, it doesn’t matter if it was Lewis Hamilton or any of the 19 drivers, the stewards will judge fairly and fairly taking all aspects into account. The starting place for training starts is detailed in all events, in which Lewis, with the other riders, agreed with the requirements – declared the Australian.
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Michael Masi, FIA race director, explained the punishments to Hamilton – Photo: Clive Mason / Getty Images
Masi also explained the circumstances that led Hamilton to be punished not only once, with a five-second increase in his test time, but twice, totaling ten seconds:
– There was no second punishment. Two elements of the rules were broken. One was in relation to the notes of the direction of the event, and the other, to the article of the sports regulation that says that you must maintain a constant speed when leaving the pits. The reason why we determine where the start should be trained is for the safety of the riders.
Despite the punishment, Hamilton remains in the lead of the championship with a comfortable advantage over the vice-leader, Bottas; while the six-time champion has 205 points, the Finn is 44 points behind, with 161 points.