Lewis Hamilton has kept his German Grand Prix victory in the wake of a stewards’ enquiry, after the Brit was placed under investigation for a potential pitlane infringement.
Hamilton fought back from fourteenth on the grid to win a chaotic race at the Hockenheimring, one that saw the former championship leader Sebastian Vettel crash out from the lead in changeable conditions. The Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver finished 4.5 seconds ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, ensuring a one-two finish for the on-watching Daimler group bosses.
However, Hamilton’s victory was placed in doubt after a miscommunication on the radio saw him start to enter the pit entry road before swerving back onto the track, across the grass, upon instructions from engineer Pete Bonnington. The incident happened in the initial rush behind the Safety Car for Vettel’s accident.
After the podium ceremony, Hamilton and Mercedes were summoned to the stewards’ to explain and justify the incident and action that violated a term in the FIA‘s Sporting Regulations.
In the 2016 European Grand Prix, Kimi Räikkönen received a five-second time penalty for putting all four wheels over the pit entry line before committing back onto the track. With Hamilton’s lead over Bottas five-tenths shy of that buffer, Hamilton would have fallen to second should that penalty have been carried out.
In the race director’s notes for that race in Azerbaijan two years ago, it is understood that Charlie Whiting had made it abundantly clear that the manoeuvre would not be tolerated due to the high-speed section of the track it sits on.
With that in mind, alongside the flashpoint taking place under the Safety Car in clear space and caused by an error that Mercedes owned up to, the stewards decided to hand Hamilton his first reprimand of the season.
The ruling read as follows: “It was clear that there was an infringement of the above mentioned rule – the driver clearly crossed the line separating the pit entry from the track.
“In deciding on the penalty for the infringement, we took into account the following mitigating factors.
“(i) The driver and the team candidly admitted the mistake and the fact that there was confusion within the team as to whether to stay out or to enter the pits and that led to the infringement.
“(ii) The fact that the infringement took place during a Safety Car period.
“(iii) At no time was there any danger to any other competitor and the change in direction was executed in a safe way.
“Taking all of the above into account, including considering previous infringements of the above rule, we are of the opinion that a reprimand would be the appropriate penalty for the said infringement on this occasion.”
The outcome leaves Hamilton with a 17 point lead in the Drivers’ Championship over Vettel heading into next weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, the last race before Formula 1‘s summer break.