Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2020

Stewards met with Hamilton before withdrawing his penalty points

2020 Russian Grand Prix

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The Russian Grand Prix stewards met with Lewis Hamilton after the race before deciding to cancel the penalty points they originally gave him for his practice starts violation.

Hamilton was originally given two penalty points, one for each start, which the stewards deemed he made outside of the designated area. They subsequently revised their decision, withdrew Hamilton’s penalty points, and issued a €25,000 fine to Mercedes instead.

The original verdict was issued during the race. Formula 1 race director Michael Masi explained why the stewards issued a revised decision four hours later.

“The stewards after the race heard from the team and the driver of car 44,” said Masi. “So Lewis and Mercedes spoke to the stewards.”

In their revised decision, the stewards said they “received information from the team that the driver of car 44 had received a team instruction to perform the practice start in the incorrect place.”

Before the original penalty was issued, Mercedes radio communications were broadcast on the world television feed which showed Hamilton asking the team whether he could perform his practice starts “further out”.

Masi said the stewards subsequently decided “it was actually a team instruction to Lewis of where he could perform the practice starts.

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“On that basis the stewards have now rescinded the penalty points on both those decisions because they thought it was inappropriate and as a result have fined the team €25,000 for that instruction.”

The decision that Hamilton was acting on the advice of his team was key to the decision to rescind his penalty points, said Masi.

“Lewis followed his team’s instruction and effectively, yes, it was him driving the car, however a contributing factor was that his team instructed him to do so at that point and therefore they saw fit to revise their decision accordingly.”

Masi said the team may not have intended for Hamilton to make his practice start in the position he did, as his team mate Valtteri Bottas was not advised to use the same location.

“I suggest that, by the fact, there was probably a miscommunication between the team and the driver of a car 44 because obviously Valtteri and all the other drivers use the exact practice start location where it was, immediately on their right after the pit exit lights.”

Asked whether Hamilton potentially put other drivers at risk by performing his practice starts at the end of the pit lane exit, Masi said: “The reason why we determine where the practice start location is, is for the safety of all drivers. And also so everybody is aware of what is actually happening. So, for me, we determine its location for a deliberate reason.”

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2020 Russian Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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23 comments on “Stewards met with Hamilton before withdrawing his penalty points”

  1. Massi: Ditherer. Umpiring is about MAKING DECISIONS.

    1. Masi’s not a steward though. He didn’t make the original nor the revised decision. He’s not in a position to.

    2. So….. mercedes do appealed for LH penalty point BTW.

  2. This makes no sense.

    I’m speaking from the perspective of a Hamilton supporter. At least if you’re going to make such a decision in the first place, then stick to it. You could hear the radio coms perfectly well. Just shows how much they are making up as they go along, just like the Black and White flag garbage.

    While you’re at it, perhaps they could start listening to the drivers after the Tuscan GP as well.

    1. It doesn’t look great that they revised their original ruling, swapping from a driver based punishment to a team based punishment. That said, in light of the instruction from the team, changing the penalty is probably the outcome they should have reached in the first place..

      1. As a Hamilton supporter as well, I’m glad that they removed the penalty points, but does this mean that the penalty during the race was also a mistake? If yes, it costed him a win. I find it hard to believe that the stewards didn’t see the radio that was available to the world feed. Hamilton clearly asked if it was ok, and the team instructed him to do so. It was clear from the start that the team made a mistake.

        1. Well, not sure about the win @lak (I think Bottas had the better strategy so might well have won anyway), but a good fight for 2nd definitely. I agree with your post though, this does make one wonder about how solid the stewards procedures are.

          I am happy with decisions being changed when learning more/better information, but when that info was already widely available well before you made the decision, the question is, why didn’t it figure then, and also, would it have changed something more in what was decided.

          It also illustrates the risk of taking race-influencing decisions for things that don’t really deal with in-race infractions – technical infractions aside, which have their own rules – like the case here. (‘sporting advantage’ from doing a practice start? Yeah, that’s what all drivers try, why they do it even, but it doesn’t change you have to nail the start, right? That’s a bit silly really).

  3. We were so concerned about the safety aspect that we didnt throw a yellow, warn the team, or stop them doing it for a second time.

    1. The comment of the day! Perfect!

  4. I don’t think they thought it through when they issued the penalties and awarded those penalty points. Now they see a potential impact on the championship. The same should apply to the 10 sec stop go, only it’s too late to undo that.

    The stewards must have surely had this information when they made their original decision.

    1. A race ban would be amazing for ‘the show’: the championship closes up a bit (but not enough for Hamilton not to win his 7th) and we would see Vandoorne in that Merc

      1. @paeschli what is interesting though is that Verstappen, despite being the closest non-Mercedes driver in the WDC, is one of a number of drivers who has argued against Hamilton being given penalty points, saying that he felt it was overly harsh to apply the penalty points on top of the time penalties he had already received in that race.

        Similarly, both Vettel and Leclerc have also said that they thought that they thought what Hamilton did wasn’t deserving of penalty points – with both drivers arguing that the penalty points system should be scaled back and only applied to instances of dangerous driving on track. https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/drivers-question-penalty-points-hamilton/4883566/?ic_source=home-page-widget&ic_medium=widget&ic_campaign=widget-1

        Whilst there might be those thinking it would enhance “the show”, we have the remarkable scenario that the same drivers who would benefit from Hamilton receiving those penalty points and a race ban are actively arguing that Hamilton shouldn’t be penalised in that manner – with the two Ferrari drivers even arguing against the position that Binotto has taken as well.

  5. The whole thing was pretty brain dead. Rescinding the penalty points was the one sensible thing about it. Lewis saw the defined, limited, practice start point was rubbered in, as it OBVIOUSLY would be very quickly, which made it completely useless for start settings, and asked if he could do it in a perfectly safe spot further along. But earlier in the weekend the race director had written an ill-informed, controlling rule about it

    Because of this, a very intriguing race was ruined, at the top end anyway. But Lewis not being on the cusp of a race ban is an improvement at least.

    1. Hamilton could have made the race interesting by chasing Verstappen. problem is: he’s so far in front of everyone in the championship, he couldn’t be bothered.

      1. @paeschli They stopped Hamilton way earlier than he wanted. Which meant that he had to go long on the hard tyres and therefore he had to manage them all race long. He couldn’t do more than the tyres can deliver.

      2. Verstappen could have made this interesting by chasing Bottas. But he didnt. Like Hamilton (and Bottas) he was conserving tyres. Like Hamilton he told his engineer he wasn’t interested in gaps ( because he was conserving tyres.) All three were conserving tyres after the first pit stop. And if you had looked at the timing right after the pit stop you would have seen any gains that Max or Ham made on the guy in front was met with that guy doing a faster lap immediately after.

    2. The race director’s note was so badly worded that Hamilton didn’t actually violate 19.1, and it’s questionable if he violated 19.2. As for article 36.1, I don’t see how it possibly applies to the section of the pit where Hamilton performed his starts. I think they only included it to justify the 5 second penalties.

      Due to the design of the pit exit, there are only two locations where you can safely do a practice start– where everyone else was doing them, and where Hamilton did his.

      The race director should have notified Mercedes immediately on the first start, and then referred it to the stewards– who if it had been Vettel or LeClerc, would have issued a reprimand with no points.

      Right now, Masi and the FIA Stewards are making it far too easy to believe they’re biased.

      1. exactly grat. And the double penalty and penalty points. And when you add in Monza – the pitlane being closed when he was in Parabolica obviously looking right – and then Salo’s behaviour, and the red flags, late SC lights, it’s all to easy to believe they’re working for the media outfit.

  6. Whoever was at fault, petty stuff like that – and like what Ricciardo and Albon did – shouldn’t receive penalty points.

  7. I would like to know who these stewards are. Jobs worth’s or just plain stupid!

  8. This race was killed by the FIA. Team should have fined heavily and imposed heavy penalty points in the constructors standings as they are the reason behind the stupid thing.

  9. Mark in Florida
    28th September 2020, 2:04

    The 10 second penalty was fine. The penalty points maybe too much. But if you are going to issue a penalty stick with it. It looks like weakness to withdraw a penalty especially if that person is a star of the sport. It looks as if your giving in based on who that person is when others get penalties that are not rescinded.

    1. It is not new that FIA changes things afterwards. They have done it in the past and they will do it in the future.
      But yes it makes their decisions and penalties look a bit odd.

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