Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has revealed the team was hoping to escape with a "telling off" over Lewis Hamilton's improper practice starts at the Russian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was handed two five-second penalties by the stewards for conducting starts beyond the designated area as prescribed in FIA race director Michael Masi's event notes.
The decision prevented Hamilton from challenging team-mate Valtteri Bottas for the race win, settling for third, with the Finn cutting the deficit to the six-time F1 champion to 44 points after taking the chequered flag for the ninth time in his F1 career.
Shovlin has stated that the team was aware it could be in trouble once it realised where Hamilton had positioned his car to carry out the practice starts, but believed there was enough uncertainty in the notes to avoid a sanction.
"We didn't see the first one [practice start]," said Shovlin. "When we saw the second one we thought 'They [the stewards] are not going to like that'.
"We didn't think it was dangerous, and given the event notes said it was on the right-hand side after the pit exit we thought it might have been ambiguous enough that we would have just got a telling off.
"When we saw the car position it wasn't a complete surprise they didn't like it, and no doubt there may have been teams who flagged it as much as whether the FIA or the stewards had spotted it themselves, I don't know."
Explaining why Hamilton had chosen his position within the pit lane, particularly for his second start that was picked up by television cameras, Shovlin explained: "In some places, there is a box they [the FIA] paint on the floor and you have to do it [the practice start] in the box.
"In other places, it's kind of a general area, and often if there's a lot of rubber that's not going to be representative of the grid, the drivers, and also the engineers, will want to find a bit that's closer in terms of the grip to expect on the grid.
"And all it was, Lewis asked if he could go a bit further. We hadn't realised quite how far he was going to go, but it's really just to try to find a bit of Tarmac that's more like the one that you're going to get when you do the proper race start."
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