The FIA has reversed its decision to hand Lewis Hamilton two penalty points for infringements before the Russian Grand Prix, fining his Mercedes team nearly $30,000 instead.
Hamilton practiced starts before the race at the end of the long pit exit, rather than at an area just past the final pit garage where the rest of the field carried out their launches. The championship leader had asked his team if it was OK for him to do that as he didn’t want to use an area with significant amounts of rubber laid down, and the team told him over radio that it was allowed.
However, the race director’s notes state drivers must use an area just past the pit lane exit light, which is not where Hamilton did his practice starts from.
The stewards originally handed Hamilton two five-second time penalties and two penalty points — one for each infringement — which left him on 10 penalty points for the 12-month period, two away from a race ban. After learning of the decision, Hamilton claimed the FIA were trying to stop him by imposing so many points.
Some three hours after the race, the stewards announced a change in the decision based on information that Hamilton had been told by his team that he could carry out the practice starts where he did.
“The Stewards 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. This was confirmed by the Stewards having listened to the audio between the Team and the Driver.
“Based on this information the Stewards replace document 46 with this decision and therefore remove the penalty points imposed and fine the competitor (Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team) €25,000.”
The change to a fine drops Hamilton back to eight penalty points, with two to drop off his license after the Turkish Grand Prix in four races’ time.