FIA race director Charlie Whiting explained why Lewis Hamilton wasn’t penalised for cutting the first corner in Mexico when Max Verstappen was later in the race.
Hamilton’s move drew criticism from other drivers who claimed he had gained an advantage by cutting the track at the start.
“The principal difference between the two was simply that in Lewis’s case it was felt he didn’t gain any lasting advantage and in Max’s case he did,” said Whiting during today’s FIA press conference.
Referring to video footage of the incidents, Whiting said: “You can see that Lewis makes a small mistake at the beginning, cuts across, gains significant track advantage but then sets about giving that back immediately.”
“And you can see on the straight between turns three and four He backs off to 80% throttle to give that advantage back because obviously he’d got a significant advantage there
“And then about a minute later the Safety Car deployed and that advantage gone completely. So the stewards felt no lasting advantage.”
“On the other hand the case with Max and Sebastian, if Max had done the same thing on the straight between turns three and four he would certainly have lost the place. So I think that’s why the stewards felt it deserved a penalty because the driver had gained a lasting advantage. That was the fundamental difference between the two incidents in the eyes of the stewards.”
Whiting confirmed that Hamilton could have been asked to relinquish more of his advantage if the Virtual Safety Car had not been deployed shortly after the incident.
“We were going to ask Lewis to back right off to ensure he maintained the same distance he had when he went into the corner,” said Whiting.
“We could see from the data he had already backed off significantly. Then the VSC was deployed followed by the Safety Car. Had that not happened, yes, we would have done that.”
“Once you go off that should be the penalty”
However Verstappen said he still does not agree with the ruling. “I’ve got a penalty, I think if you give penalties, give it to both, or you don’t give any penalties,” he said.
“But I think what we need to maybe change for the future is once you go off it should be a penalty on its own instead of the stewards interference and deciding a penalty. We need to come up with a solution that once you go off that should be the penalty on its own.”
Hamilton backed Whiting view but also agreed with Verstappen’s call for clear policing of run-off areas.
“The stewards have a very difficult job because every scenario is different,” said Hamilton. “For example the Safety Car came out immediately after my incident. Every scenario is different, it’s not easy to apply the same rules to every single thing.”
“I also agree with Max that we should work with Charlie, as we have been through the year, to try to make it easier for them to make decisions and for it to be more clear.”