Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2016

21 ways Hamilton could get a ten-place penalty

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Lesley Francis wrote in to ask a question which could have a significant bearing on the world championship in the second half of the year:

Kevin Magnussen, Renault, Sochi Autodrom, 2016
Sochi’s problematic turn two run-off area
In Sochi, Lewis Hamilton got a race stewards’ warning for failing to go round a bollard at the end of a run off area during qualifying.

Why did he get this as there wasn’t a benefit for him as it was a qualifying lap and if I’m correct, that lap wouldn’t count (as a qualifying lap) because all four tyres had left the track?

I noticed that in Canada there was a similar run off area with a bollard at the end of it, did the drivers who missed this bollard during the race also get warnings?
Lesley Francis

Hamilton was unimpressed with the censure, calling it “bloody ridiculous”. The reprimand is potentially significant as it was the second of two he has earned so far this year. If he collects a third in any of the remaining nine races he will automatically be handed a ten-place grid penalty.

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Hamilton got into trouble in Russia after the rules governing the run-off area at turn two were changed ahead of final practice at Sochi. A polystyrene block was positioned in the run-off area and drivers were told they must pass it on the left-hand side if they also passed the orange kerb at turn two on the left.

As Lesley correctly notes, Hamilton wasn’t on a flying lap when he went off the track. But while he did not gain a lap time advantage from failing to respect track limits there was the possibility for him to benefit from running off the circuit and there is a precedent which shows why this rule is in place.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korea, 2011
Vettel set the precedent for Hamilton’s reprimand
During qualifying for the 2011 Korean Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel was urged by his Red Bull team to hurry back to the pits after setting his first lap time in Q3. Vettel bypassed the turn five/six chicane using an escape road to save a few seconds.

The stewards investigated Vettel but he escaped a sanction because they determined that he began his final run with 17 seconds to spare and had not gained all that time by leaving the track. However the FIA was keen to avoid encouraging other drivers to do the same, and so the rules were changed for the following season.

From 2012 drivers were warned they must not exceed the limits of the track ‘without good reason’ and that cutting the track and saving time in qualifying even when not on a timed lap would not be permitted. This explains why Hamilton received a reprimand.

A polystyrene block was used in a similar way in the run-off area at the final chicane on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. However the protocol was slightly different: drivers were told they did not have to go around the block if they touched the orange kerb, but were required to rejoin the track safely. No driver was judged to have infringed there during the race.

Small error may mean grid penalty for Hamilton or Sainz

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2016
Reversing in the pits earned Hamilton his first reprimand
Hamilton isn’t the only driver to have collected two reprimands so far this year. Carlos Sainz Jnr has as well, and both are at risk of a ten-place grid penalty if they collect a third.

How could that happen? Reprimands can be issued for the slightest infraction. Since the beginning of 2011 a total of 68 reprimands have been issued to drivers for the following 21 reasons:

Both drivers will have to be on their guard during the remaining races. Every qualifying session will bring with it the risk of holding up a rival and collecting another reprimand. A minor slip-up in the pits, a hasty return to the track, any of these oversights could prove a race-wrecking mistake.

There is one piece of good news for these drivers, however: the change in radio rules at the previous race means their race engineers can give them more information and therefore reduce the chance of them getting into trouble again.

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Keith Collantine
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  • 32 comments on “21 ways Hamilton could get a ten-place penalty”

    1. Let’s face it, if Hamiton does have to start a race from down the field, the worst he’s likely to end up with is a 4th place finish (varring any mechanical issues obviously). More of an inconvenience to him than a dent to his title aspirations IMO.

      1. Not really true.

        Hamilton gave himself a 10 place penalty in Baku when he hit the wall in Qualifying and could only manage 5th, even without his engine problem he would have done well to get 4th and that was a track where the Red Bulls were not strong.

        1. Fair enough, but if he starts at the back of the grid/pit lane at Spa, I can’t see him having much trouble slicing through the field to a top 5/6 finish. A well timed safety car could even help him snatch a podium.

          1. Likewise, if the same were to happen in Singapore, he’d be in trouble.
            He might want to find a way to collect his third reprimand on the ‘right’ track. Things like that happen in football almost on a daily basis, so I’m pretty sure the guys at Mercedes have already weighed up the pros and cons of doing so.

        2. You do recall the settings issue at Baku, right. He was probably lucky to finish at all given the radio rules at the time.

      2. Perhaps Rosberg should have as much starting from behind as Hamilton does since in your view starting from behind or a grid drop does not make much difference

    2. Mercedes (Paddy Lowe I believe) made some comments about Hamilton’s reprimand situation after Friday practice in Hockenheim which indicated to me that they’re thinking tactically about this last reprimand and subsequent penalty.

      I won’t go as far as saying that I expect Hamilton to incur another reprimand on the same weekend he takes his new power unit components, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Looking at that list there are a number of things that Mercedes could fail to ‘advise’ Hamilton on, such as where/how to rejoin the track after certain corners, or even simply failing to tell him who is on a hot lap behind him. Are Mercedes willing to go to such lengths to ensure a level playing field for their two drivers?

      It’s certainly not within the spirit of the rules and I can picture the fallout already. However aside from the fact that it would obviously have been premeditated, could the stewards / FIA actually do anything to prevent or punish it?

      1. With the engine penalties, after you have your first 10 place grid penalty, every additional engine component will yield another penalty. I imagine that reprimands would be a similar situation, and that 4th, 5th, 6th etc. reprimands would all yield penalties.

        I could be wrong, but I can’t see how the FIA would leave such a blatant loophole in the rules.

        1. @minnis
          ‘I could be wrong, but I can’t see how the FIA would leave such a blatant loophole in the rules.’
          Technically speaking, they didn’t *leave* such a loophole in the rules – they *introduced* it last season, when McLaren were throwing new engine parts at their cars after every other session.
          For some reason, many fans thought (or rather: cried out loud) that the rule was stupid, and the FIA crumbled under the pressure, removing any engine-related penalty from the rules that went further than a grid drop to P22.
          So yes, it is theoretically possible to stock up on new engines by starting from the back of the grid once.

        2. @sparkyamg @minnis I don’t believe anyone’s made it to four reprimands in a season since this rule was introduced so there’s no precedent. Pastor Maldonado, Mark Webber, Jules Bianchi and Charles Pic all made it to three and got ten-place penalties.

          Looking at the reprimand and power unit penalty descriptions in the Sporting Regulations I don’t believe incurring a fourth reprimand would incur a second ten-place penalty. I suspect the driver would ‘reset to zero’.

          Reprimands:

          18.2 Any driver who receives three reprimands in the same Championship season will, upon the imposition of the third, be given a ten grid place penalty at that Event. If the third reprimand is imposed following an Incident during a race the ten grid place penalty will be applied at the driver’s next Event.

          The ten grid place penalty will only be imposed if at least two of the reprimands were imposed for a driving infringement.

          Power unit components:

          23.4 f) Should a driver use more than four of any one of the elements during a Championship season, a grid place penalty will be imposed upon him at the first Event during which each additional element is used. Penalties will be applied according to the following table and will be cumulative:

          The first time a 5th of any of the elements is used. – Ten grid place penalty.
          The first time a 5th of any of the remaining elements is used. – Five grid place penalty.
          The first time a 6th of any of the elements is used. – Ten grid place penalty.
          The first time a 6th of any of the remaining elements is used, and so on – Five grid place penalty.

      2. Wow, I want to play Poker with these guys!!! :-)

    3. Sean Kettlewood
      12th August 2016, 12:44

      I’m not certain what happens at the four penalty mark? could it be advantageous for Hamilton to get that penality when the engine swaps are needed later on in the season, that way if the next penalty milestone is six for example; it gives him a lot more breathing space.

      It would be easy enough to do a speeding in pit lane infraction.

    4. As Hamilton is low on engine components before he will receive a penalty, could he not kill a couple of birds with one stone:

      * Cross the pit exit line or not replace his steering wheel after qualifying (nothing too drastic and unsafe), get 10 place grid pen and reset number of reprimands down to 0
      * Change multiple engine components, start at the back / pit lane, then have more fresh parts for rest of the season.

      Correct me if I’m wrong but this way he could be reset back to 0 reprimands, have lots of fresh engine components and only have one race to start at the back /pit lane? @keithcollantine

      1. @tonyyeb I’m pretty sure he won’t get reset to 0, and each subsequent reprimand will be a penalty

      2. I was thinking about the same, like taking a yellow card on purpose in football when already having one from a previous match, to sit out an unimportant match and start with a clean sheet afterwards.

        However, the risk here is he makes it too obvious, at which point the FIA might want to put a stop to that by invoking sporting regulations 8.7:

        If in the opinion of the F1 Commission a competitor fails to operate his team in a manner compatible with the standards of the Championship or in any way brings the Championship into disrepute, the FIA may exclude such competitor from the Championship forthwith.

        It’s a little bit of a catch all rule, and of course overly harsh if applied literally, but they might want to pressurize teams/drivers to refrain from taking reprimands intentially.

      3. Yes he can and that’s what they will do; something like taking 2 new engines at Spa or Monza and also get another reprimand on purpose; starting 11th or last will only mean probably one position difference at the end of the race.
        So they should totally do it, McLaren 2015 style!

        1. Are you sure that works?

          Surely getting 3 reprimands doesn’t reset the counter back to 0? You’d expect penalties to be more severe for getting 4 or 5 in a season.

    5. The So Racing Crew: “He’s got 21 ways to fail, he’s got 21 ways to fail – so let me let me know if he gets a drive-through, he’s got 21 ways to put his championship down the loo”.

    6. Do you reset after 3? or do you get a penalty on the 4th too?

    7. what about golden boy Rosburg, how comes he gets away with things all the time that Lewis gets penalised for. I do believe he’s been up before the stewards on the last two occasions, what are his penalties for the rest of the season.

      1. how comes he gets away with things all the time that Lewis gets penalised for

        Such as?

      2. The argument that the stewards have been more lenient towards Rosberg than Hamilton does not stand. Rosberg got penalised for the Germany, when Hamilton did not while crashing into Kimi in 2014. The thing is, it’s easy to look at the statistics and believe they are biased but the truth is, it just depends in who’s side of the argument you look at.

        You could easily say that Hamilton was lucky to not be excluded from qualifying for reversing in the pit lane, and that he could have been given a penalty or another reprimand for not obeying the track limits at turn 1 in the race in Russia. Similarly they could have opted to penalise either Hamilton or Rosberg for the collision in Spain, but decided to remain neutral on the matter. I’m not here to have an argument saying what should or shouldn’t have been, what I am saying is it’s incredibly unfair to say that Nico has got away with a lot more. The stewards’ decisions have always been questionable and somewhat inconsistent, and there are debates as to whether they are too lenient or too strict, but it is correct to say they are not intentionally penalising one driver more than another.

        1. Rosberg should have had a reprimand in Spain. The rules (or interpretation thereof) were actually tightened because Rosberg was pushing drivers off on the straight in Bahrain a few years earlier. Yet he does it again and gets away with it again. The excuse was that Hamilton wasn’t alongside “long enough”. There is no mention of time frame for being alongside. Just that IF the car is alongside it should be given space. Hamilton clearly was alongside by the definitions of the stewards.

          What Rosberg did in Hungary under double waved yellow was abominable. It’s just bizarre that driving on the wrong side of a bollard gives you a reprimand, but that endangering the lives of the marshalls gets you pole position. While all other drivers were following the rules. And again the rules (or procedures) had to be made more strict to cover Rosberg’s transgressions.

          Rosberg didn’t crash into Hamilton by accident in Austria. He did so on purpose, because he felt he was on the inside and therefore had that right. in Hockenheim it looked very much like he was doing the same thing. Although I guess he was just trying not to flatspot and that divebomb was never going to let him stop in time. The end result was that he shoved a driver off that was ahead of him. Doesn’t matter if you do it intentionally or not.

          Hamilton gave Raikkonen space, but there was another car on his outside. They never get penalties for locking up a little going into a corner. Nor for troubles that arise from a car being sandwihced. It’s preposterous to suggest that was even remotely the same. Rosbeg in Austria and Hockenheim and Vettel in Silverstone rightly got penalties for running the other car off track when they were behind and still pushed the other car off track.

    8. It’ll be for causing a collision…

    9. I doubt he’ll get another reprimand. The stewards were giving them out like confetti, thinking it was a slap on the wrist. Now they know there’d be all kinds of internet-melting fallout if they give a third, maybe costing the WDC, so if there HAS to be a penalty they’ll choose a time penalty or a drive through, or even a 3-place grid drop.

      Perhaps FIA will even have a think about whether 10 places for 3 petty reprimands was the best idea.

      1. Yeah, possible. Certainly I think if there are more incidents between LH and NR I can see the stewards and/or FIA letting the team sort that out rather than figuratively if not literally deciding the Champion in the boardroom.

        But I think reprimands are for the more petty crimes which is why it takes 3, and I don’t think they need to revisit the 10 spot penalty for 3, to perhaps help ‘refocus’ a driver.

        While I do think the stewards at times don’t want to affect a Championship too much especially when it is between only two players on the same team, they can’t ignore the rulebook either, especially over worries of Internet meltdown. It’s still in the drivers’ best interest to not harm their own chances and they can’t assume they’ll be let off lightly, whatever the crime. A time penalty, a drive-through, or a three-place grid drop could also decide the Championship.

    10. I’m half-expecting either Lewis or Carlos to find a 22nd way to get a reprimand now…

    11. It’s a real chance…

    12. I suspect “impeding a rival” is the most likely to happen for him.

    13. Hamilton could have gotten his 3rd penalty in Spain after he threw his steering wheel away.

      1. He put it back. Or tried to at least.

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