Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has said the error which led to Lewis Hamilton receiving a 10-second penalty was the result of a miscommunication between team and driver.
Hamilton already faced an uphill battle at the Russian Grand Prix after an eventful Q2 session meant he started the race, albeit from pole, on the less favourable soft tyres.
However, the FIA race stewards saw fit to slap the championship leader with two five-second penalties for completing his practice starts in the incorrect location, an action race director Michael Masi relayed the stewards believed gave a "sporting advantage".
Radio messages broadcast after the incident revealed Hamilton had asked race engineer Peter Bonnington if it was ok to complete a practice start further down the pit exit, but Shovlin revealed the team was not aware of the distance Hamilton would travel before choosing to go through the procedure.
“On the reconnaissance laps the drivers can do practice starts and, on this event, it said you could do them after the pit exit on the right-hand side," explained Shovlin in the Mercedes 'Race Debrief' YouTube series.
"Now, Lewis had said could he go a bit further. This was about trying to get the car off the rubber where everyone’s being practising starts all weekend, that is often grippier than the grid itself, so it’s not the perfect location to do it and from an engineering point of view, we often ask the drivers to move a bit further down. Now, when Lewis asked if he could go further down we said that was fine.
"We hadn’t realised he would go quite as far as he did and that was really where the misunderstanding was. We thought he meant a few metres; he was actually asking if he could go a bit further and we should have given him a different answer to that question.”
Although the penalty dropped then-race leader Hamilton behind both team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen, Shovlin believes, even without the penalty, third was the best result on offer to Hamilton at the Sochi Autodrom.
He added: “The strategy options for Lewis were actually quite limited but it wasn’t so much how the penalty affected the strategy itself, it was just that starting on the soft tyre means you have to come in earlier, therefore you have got to do a long stint on the hard tyre.
"He did a good job of managing it to the end of the race, you have to do a bit of management otherwise you would have run out of rubber but in reality, our car isn’t so quick against the Red Bull that we can expect to chase them down when we are on older rubber and try to make an overtake.
"So, unfortunately, the issues with starting on the soft but certainly coupled with that penalty meant that third place was the best that Lewis could achieve on the day.”
For a person with a long career in racing, surely, he knows the rules. Stating “They are trying to stop me, aren’t they.” Why would they want to stop him? Or - is he yet, another person who feels he’s targeted in the current climate of social reform? No matter what sport one is in, when records are up to be tied or broken, it is of great interest to many. Making statements like this, shows his entitlement by not following the rules and blaming others for his mistake. Very sad.
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