Lewis Hamilton escapes penalty points but claims F1 bosses are “trying to stop me”
The penalty points Lewis Hamilton received in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix were chalked off by the FIA after Mercedes accepted blame for the error that cost their star man an historic victory.
Hamilton was handed a 10-second penalty by the stewards for performing two illegal practice starts ahead of a race in which he had hoped to claim his 91st win and match Michael Schumacher’s all-time tally.
The punishment dropped him out of contention, with the six-time world champion blasting the decision as “bull****.”
With Hamilton out of the way, Valtteri Bottas marched to a regulation victory, crossing the line 7.7 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Hamilton finished a distant third and was also staring at the prospect of a potential race ban. But late on Sunday evening the stewards reversed their decision to slap him with two points on his licence. I
nstead, Hamilton’s Mercedes team were fined £23,000 by Formula One’s governing body after explaining that they were at fault for the infringements, and that Hamilton was merely following race engineer Pete Bonnington’s instructions.
It means Hamilton will revert to eight points, four short of the 12 that would see him barred from competing.
Speaking before the stewards’ U-turn, Hamilton said: “It is ridiculous the points they have been giving this year.
“Penalty points are for putting someone else in danger or crashing into somebody, but I did not harm anyone.
“Going forward, I will make sure I don’t give them an excuse for anything.
“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. But it is to be expected. They are trying to stop me.”
Hamilton’s bid to match Schumacher’s record will now have to wait until at least a week on Sunday for the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.
“I am very clear that I am not going to finger point at anybody, full stop,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff following the team’s mistake.
“I am not happy with the penalty because it is far-fetched. I always respect the stewards but on this one we have to agree to disagree. We will not appeal (against) it.
“Things are not always black and white and there is room for interpretation. It can be interpreted in two ways; common sense and the fact that two in-race penalties were given for an infringement that happened before the race.
“But you have to take it on the chin and move on.”