FIA race director Michael Masi has had to refute claims from Lewis Hamilton for the second race in a row, and said that the governing body treats all drivers equally.
Hamilton said the FIA were trying to stop him after he initially picked up an extra two penalty points for a practice start infringement in Russia last weekend, putting him close to a race ban. Although those points were later rescinded, the comments followed a complaint from Hamilton that the FIA tries to spice up the show with late Safety Car restarts, and Masi said the latest claim is misdirected as the stewards simply judge breaches of regulations regardless of the driver or team.
“No, I don’t (have a response) and from my perspective, it’s very simple that if Lewis wants to raise something – as I have said to him before and said to all the drivers numerous times – the door is always open,” Masi said. “I’m more than happy to discuss anything, but I think from an FIA perspective we are there as a sporting regulator to administer the regulations.
“We have the stewards as an independent judiciary to adjudicate those, and therefore there was an infringement and it doesn’t matter if it was Lewis Hamilton or any one of the other 19 drivers, if a breach has occurred of the regulations they will consider it on its merits. And also further to that I would say adjudicate it equitably and fairly in the circumstances, taking all of the key elements into account.”
Explaining Hamilton’s penalty in more detail, Masi said the time penalty was handed out for two separate pre-race infringements because they could have had an impact on Hamilton’s ability to get a better start than his rivals.
“You need to have a look at everything on its own merits,” he said. “In the stewards view, performing that practice start in that area, in their view was a sporting advantage. Having spoken to them quickly, and therefore they thought an appropriate penalty was a sporting penalty.
“Actually it wasn’t a second penalty. There was a breach of two elements of the regulations that were highlighted. One being the article within the race director’s event notes, the second being Article 36.1 of the Sporting Regulations that states you must keep a constant speed through the pit exit road, the pit exit road being defined by being where the red lights are at pit exit through to the Safety Car line.”
Masi said the stewards accepted the team instructions that Hamilton received were a major reason why he carried out the practice starts where he did – having asked if he could move further down the pit lane – leading to the penalty points being rescinded after the race.
“The stewards after the race heard from the team and the driver of Car 44, Lewis and Mercedes spoke to the stewards, at which point it was (confirmed as) actually a team instruction to Lewis of where he could perform those practice starts. On that basis the stewards have rescinded the penalty points as they thought it was inappropriate and as a result have fined the team 25,000 euros for that instruction.
“Lewis followed his team instruction and yes it was him driving the car, however a contributing factor was his team instructed him to do so at that point and therefore they saw it fit to revise their decision accordingly.”