Mercedes did not see Lewis Hamilton perform his first practice start and only realised he could fall foul of the stewards when they saw the second.
Hamilton asked the team on his radio whether he could “go further out” to perform his practice start, and then whether he could go “to the end of the pit wall?” His race engineer Pete Bonnington answered: “Yeah, copy. Leave enough room for cars to pass.”
The team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin confirmed the team did not realise where Hamilton intended to perform his practice start. It was only when they saw his second start that they realised the stewards were “not going to like” what Hamilton had done.
“Lewis asked if he could go a bit further,” Shovlin explained. “We hadn’t realised quite how far he was he was going to go.”
Hamilton wanted to change his practice start position in order to find a section of track where the grip level was similar to the starting grid. However the team did not initially realise how far out of the pits he had driven. When they did, they immediately realised they were likely to get in trouble.
“We didn’t see the first one,” said Shovlin. “When we saw the second one we thought ‘they’re not going to like that’.”
Mercedes did not believe Hamilton’s start was a safety risk, and were hopeful they would not get a race penalty for the infringement.
“We didn’t think it was dangerous,” said Shovlin. “And given that the event notes said that it was on the right-hand side after the pit exit, we thought it might have been ambiguous enough that we would have just got a telling-off.
“But when we saw the car position, it wasn’t a complete surprise that they didn’t like it.”
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