Why was Hamilton punished (twice) for starting F1 practice?


Lewis Hamilton did not like the double punishment he suffered at the Russian Grand Prix and it was important that he didn’t pass third place in the race where he had the first chance to match Michael Schumacher’s 91 Formula 1 victories. He took two penalties of 5s each for an infraction even before aligning the car to the grid: he would have rehearsed starts, on two occasions, in a place not allowed.

The six-time champion defended himself by saying that he did nothing different from other tests, while his boss, Toto Wolff, said the punishment was “unconvincing”, since the rules were unclear as to where pilots could do your starting rehearsals.

At least, of the evils, the smallest for Hamilton, who initially also had two points added to his super license, reaching 10 and getting two to be suspended for a test. But, hours after the GP, the stewards went back, after several criticisms even from other riders, and he continues with 8 points, which start to win after the Turkish GP, in four stages.

Why was Hamilton punished?

He broke two rules: the first is not to “maintain a constant acceleration when leaving the pitlane”, which is in article 36.1 of the sports regulations. And the second is part of another document, which is distributed to the teams on Thursdays before the tests (and sometimes gets updated versions over the weekend, which was not the case in Sochi), called “notes from the director of proof “. This document talks about the particularities of each track, such as location of entry and exit of the box, Safety Car line, etc.

In article 19 of these “race director’s notes”, which talks directly about starting rehearsals, it is written that the pilot can only do these drills “on the right after the pitlane exit lights and, to be sure, this includes any moment when the pitlane exit is open. Drivers must leave adequate space for another driver to pass. For safety and sports equity reasons, cars cannot stop on the fast line (left part of pitlane) at any time when leaving the pitlane. pitlane “.

Why were there two punishments?

Hamilton performed two start tests before lining up on the grid. The first was at 1:32 pm local and the second at 1:35 pm. As he acted the same in both cases, he was punished twice. In each of them, he took 5s of punishment, which is the second lowest possible penalty. The first would be just a warning. He served his sentences all at once, at his only pit stop.

Was it Hamilton’s fault or the team’s fault?

In this video published by Formula 1, it is clear that Hamilton asked the team if he could go further down the track to train his starts and receives the information that he did. “There is only rubber here, can I go further?” and the engineer says yes, that he just has to leave space for rivals to pass, which he did.

Are Hamilton and Mercedes right to complain?

If we base ourselves only on what is written in the “race director’s notes” document, it makes sense to complain that it was unclear where the starting test was allowed since, in the document, it is said “on the right after the pitlane line “, without further specification.

“Generally, in all races, or at least this year, I always do my starting exercises later on. I never had a problem, I have done this for years. I never did here, I believe, but what [a regra] says[andthatyouhavetostaytotherightafterthepitlanelightsbutdoesn’tsayhowfaraheadAndIdon’tliketostaywhereit’srubberizedwheretheothersstarttheirtrainingsessionssoItrytogotoaplacewithlessrubber”[equevocêtemqueficaràdireitadepoisdasluzesdopitlanemasnãofalaoquantoparafrenteEeunãogostodeficarondeestáemborrachadoondeosoutrosfazemseustreinosdelargadaentãoeutentoirparaumlugarcommenosborracha”

Hamilton’s boss, Toto Wolff, followed suit and also said he spoke clearly about the rules, but said he respected the commissioners’ work, although he had to disagree. “Taking 10s for something that happened in the reconnaissance laps can also be debated. But we have to take the blow and move on.”

In the text of the punishment, there is a specification that the starting test could only be done in a place “that is off the track, defined by the lines”. Hamilton, in fact, was doing his rehearsals on the track. And, as other riders, like Daniel Ricciardo, stated that “it was very clear where you could train starting, even because you didn’t change from Friday to the race”, it is possible that this additional information was passed on at the meeting of the riders and representatives team, which is always held with the race direction on Fridays in the late afternoon.

Why do pilots practice starting?

The grip of the track changes a lot over the weekend, so since the free practice, the pilots do a sequence of starting tests at the exit of the pitlane, which is the only place where they will be able to repeat this on Sundays, and also on the grid at the end of the sessions. The engineers then calculate the clutch settings so that the start is the best possible by crossing the data from these two reference points, and the pilots adopt the chosen configuration using the steering wheel controls.

Why did the FIA ​​back down on the points?

This double punishment had left Hamilton in a delicate position in relation to the points added to his super license. He had reached 10, and with 12 he would receive an automatic suspension. This is because these points are linked to the chosen punishment and, when a pilot takes 5s, he usually takes a point in the “wallet” too. All the drivers who were asked about this – Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo – agreed that giving Hamilton points for an infringement with this Sunday was excessive.

A few hours after the end of the Russian Grand Prix, the FIA, claiming to have heard from Mercedes that they were the ones who instructed Hamilton to stop at the place where he did the starting test, decided that the points would be revoked. So now Hamilton has 8 points. As these points are valid for 12 months, if he takes four more points during the next four tests, he will be suspended.


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