Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2020

Hamilton under investigation before race for practice start violation

2020 Russian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton is at risk of receiving a penalty for an infringement on his reconnaissance lap before the start of the race.

Race control announced Hamilton is under investigation for a “practice start outside of the designated area”.

Drivers may only perform their practice starts in specific areas on the circuit. The guidance issued to drivers states: “Practice starts may only be carried out on the right-hand side after the pit exit lights and, for the avoidance of doubt, this includes any time the pit exit is open for the race. Drivers must leave adequate room on their left for another driver to pass.

“For reasons of safety and sporting equity, cars may not stop in the fast lane at any time the pit exit
is open without a justifiable reason (a practice start is not considered a justifiable reason).”

Hamilton originally lined up to perform a practice start in the same position as his rivals, then asked his team, “There’s all rubber here, can I go further out?” Race engineer Peter Bonnington told him: “Affirm.”

Hamilton then drove further along to the pit lane exit. “To the end of the pit wall?” he asked. “Yeah, copy. Leave enough room for cars to pass.”

As well as being at risk of a penalty during the race, Hamilton could be in danger of receiving further penalty points. He is already on eight, the most of any driver at present, and an automatic ban is issued if a driver reaches 12.

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2020 Russian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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22 comments on “Hamilton under investigation before race for practice start violation”

  1. This is a silly thing to be investigated for, really. I can’t imagine anything will come of it.

    1. I don’t think it would be silly at all. An unexpectedly stationary car in the pit exit is pretty damn dangerous I would say…

      1. If they don’t want practice starts to be taken from there, then it is silly that the race director’s notes do not explicitly prohibit that area.

        I agree with why you have to have rules covering where you can take a practice start, but the problem arises because the notes are ambiguous enough to suggest that is permissible.

  2. Bottas will get onto dirty side if Lewis gets penalty.

  3. “for the avoidance of doubt” the guidance says “on the right-hand side after the pit exit lights”.

    I mean, that description covers the area where Hamilton took his practice start from. It’s after the lights. He’s on the right.

    Arguably he is encroaching on the fast lane, and they shouldn’t be taking a start from there. But where do the rules clearly state that this area is not allowed to be used for a practice start? If they wanted to avoid doubt, they would clearly say so, they would have clear markings in the pit exit for where a practice start can occur.

    It’s feeling more and more like F1 is re-interpreting the rules as they go along to suit themselves to create fake incidents, and I’m getting utterly sick of it.

  4. 2 x 5 seconds , no word on when he has to take them.

    What don’t get is, why not say 10 seconds?

    1. Because they are two penalties.

  5. I guess that Lewis didn’t read the briefing document again, just like when he didn’t know where the light were for a closed pit lane. Amateurish.

    1. And which part of “Practice starts may only be carried out on the right-hand side after the pit exit lights. Drivers must leave adequate room on their left for another driver to pass.” prohibits taking a practice start where Lewis did?

      It was after the lights.
      He was on the right hand side.
      There was adequate room for drivers to pass (two did).

      The only thing you could say is that where he was is considered to be the fast lane (there are no lane markings at that point). But when they are saying things like “for the avoidance of doubt”, maybe they should actually clarify such things that clearly are in doubt.

  6. I can’t blaim Hamilton, as he was given the green light by his pit-wall. Geez all this for a ‘practice start’ ;(

  7. He asked Bonny and was told it was OK to go. Don’t understand how it is his fault. Two 5 secs penalty is very outrageous. But it’s clearly anything to slow him down at this point.

  8. 4 penalty points incoming

    1. It was 2 penalty points. Quite how they got to that is a bit of a mystery, but then so are most of the decisions by the stewards.

      Of the 8 points he has got this season:

      2 – a yellow flag that he couldn’t see and was initially cleared over before they changed it the next day
      2 – a collision that really should have been called a racing incident (Albon did not use the full width of the track)
      2 – called into the pits by the team (pit closure signal positioned where the drivers aren’t looking)
      2 – practice starts that obeyed all the instructions about being after the lights, on the right hand side and leaving adequate room for others to pass, so the only possible issue is that they class the whole of that surface as the fast lane.

      Rules are rules, and they need to apply to everyone, but you get the feeling that they are trying to use every possible ambiguity in the rules to contrive to create some excitement. We’ve seen it often enough in the safety car being deployed when a VSC would have been sufficient.

      1. All those penalties are justified. It doesn’t matter if you can do something about it, but it only matters whether you broke a rule or not.

        The fact that he got only two penalty points here is lenient, as a 5s penalty usually results in 2 penalty points, although the stewards are allowed to give 1 or more penalty points for a penalty.

        1. If the penalty for the collision with Albon in Austria was justified, then Leclerc should have got a penalty for the collision with Stroll today. That incident was, without any shadow of doubt, more Leclerc’s fault than the Austria collision was the fault of Lewis.

          I completely agree that drivers should be penalised for ignoring yellow flags or entering the pit lane when it is closed – but if the drivers can’t see the signals that they are being given because they are too far outside of their peripheral vision, the sport has to acknowledge that and improve. Otherwise, these incidents will continue to happen, and it won’t be because of the malice or incompetence of an individual driver, it will be entirely random who it will involve.

          A lot of people who are very relaxed about these incidents because they are happening to Lewis now, will be absolutely furious when they happen to a Valtteri, or Max, or Charles at the last race of the season, and hand the title to Lewis. And it will be even worse when one of these incidents leads to the death of a marshal, all because the FIA fail to learn that drivers can’t see boards positioned that far outside of where they are looking, and that the death was entirely avoidable if they had just learned to move the boards and/or add more board and/or specify requirements for more on dash notifications.

  9. This is very questionable and highly doubtful it would have happened to anyone but Hamilton. Is it not obvious by now?

  10. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    27th September 2020, 13:19

    Just as with his shirt-comment. Lewis’radio when he got the news was baffling. He honestly believes rules don’t apply to him. There’s a designated area for test starts, yet he choses to do it elsewhere. Why? Because he is Lewis Hamilton and rules are for everyone else but him. He has it in his head every rule is there to tackle him and progression, even though it’s not applying a standard rule to make everyone equal.

    Lewis creates the problems out of thin air, which is a perfect representation of real life issues going on. Obey the rules and you get treated fairly and equal. Don’t and just like everyone else, you pay the price.

    1. To be fair, Hamilton asked his pit wall if he could start further along to avoid the ‘start marbles’ in the pit lane. That said “affirm” , giving Lewis the green light to start further a head.

      Now Hamilton on this longer stint is forced to manage his tires as others, pitting later, can drive flat out.

    2. “He honestly believes rules don’t apply to him”

      No, he is a driver that doesn’t deliberately seek to gain an advantage by breaking the rules, unlike some other drivers that we have seen.
      If you listen to the radio, he had a conversation with the team asking what he was allowed to do, and the team explicitly said that he could.
      When you do something that you believe to be within the rules, that your team has explicitly confirmed as being acceptable, you are going to question why you are getting a penalty for it.
      As for designated area, go back and read the race director’s notes. They talk about being after the lights, on the right hand side, and leaving adequate room – Lewis did all of those things.
      I’ve no problem with there being a very specific designated area for it. But if it is tied down to a very specific area, then the notes should be explicit about it, not just vaguely steering you in that direction by telling you what isn’t allowed.
      You could very easily denote a specific area by painting a grid marking in the pit area.
      We’re seeing too many issues being created by unnecessary ambiguity in the rules, and failure to give drivers a reasonable opportunity to see some of the signals that they are expected to abide by.
      And it’s not just Lewis falling foul of this – we saw a handful of 5 second penalties handed out for drivers just sliding off the track in Turn 2, but if they had followed the race director’s notes you end up with Sainz’ crash. The instructions being given to drivers are unrealistic, and causing bigger problems.

    3. The same kind of person who thinks every accidental death of an African-American under arrest is a race motivated murder probably thinks that any penalty or punishment applied to him is part of some kind of grand conspiracy.

  11. Lap 34 of 53 Hamilto is 22 secs behind Verstappen, who is 12 secs behind Bottas.

    Even allowing for the 10 secs penalties, you have to say the rest of that deficit is down to that initial tire choice, and then Mercedes bringing Hamilton early, when he was still doing fastest laps on those softs.

    That said, Hamilton’s soft tires at the start probably kept him in front at the start.

  12. Can someone tell me the last race a driver received a penalty for an illegal practice start!

Comments are closed.