Lewis Hamilton has accused the FIA race stewards of trying to stop him after he was handed two five-seconds penalties at the Russian Grand Prix for a pre-race infringement.
After grabbing the pole position for today’s Russian Grand Prix, Hamilton was on course to claim his fifth victory at Sochi. His Mercedes W11 has been superior over the entire race weekend, enjoying an advantage of over half a second than the second best car, Red Bull’s RB16. However, things had changed even before the race started.
The Briton made practice starts at a non-designated area, something which is clearly forbidden in Formula One for long years. Ahead of the race weekends, FIA race director Michael Masi defines in his notes where drivers are allowed to carry out practice starts which is usually at the very end of the pit lane.
On some tracks such the Red Bull Ring, Monaco or Abu Dhabi, it is completely forbidden to practice starts at the end of the pit lane due to their characteristics. Drivers can complete practice starts on the grid after the practice sessions at those circuits.
A few minutes into today's race at Sochi, it was confirmed that Hamilton was hit with two separate five-second time penalties during the race. Both time penalties came with a one-point penalty point on his Super Licence, taking him just two points shy of the 12 in 12 months that triggers an automatic race ban. However, those time penalties were lifted when the stewards confirmed Hamilton had been instructed to perform the practice starts in the wrong place by his team.
The six-time world champion did not understand what he and his team did wrong. He said: „I need to go back and see what the rules are, what exactly I did wrong, I’m pretty sure no one has ever got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before.
“I didn’t put anyone in danger, I’ve done this at a million tracks over the years and never been questioned over it. But it is what it is. Of course, it is, and it is to be expected. They are trying to stop me.”
Hamilton indicated that he feels the sport is trying to stop him and Mercedes from continuing to dominate to spice things up in a season where the Anglo-German team’s car is usually over half a second faster than it nearest rival.
“I don’t necessarily think that it is for me - I think whenever a team is at the front obviously they’re under a lot of scrutiny,. Everything we have on our car is being checked, triple checked and triple checked, they’re changing rules such as the engine regulation, lots and lots of things to get in the way and make the race exciting I assume.
“I don’t know the rules in terms of if what happened today was anything to do with it. Naturally that’s how it feels and naturally it feels we’re fighting uphill, but it’s okay, it's not like I haven’t faced adversity before. So we’ll just keep our heads down and keep fighting, keep trying to do a better job, be cleaner, squeaky clean as I said before,” Hamilton concluded.