Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says it is “ridiculous” he is two penalty points from a race ban after being punished for out-of-position practice starts at the Russian Grand Prix.
Hamilton is up to 10 points, two from an automatic one-race ban, and will not lose any of those points until after the Turkish Grand Prix in November, which means he must not pick up two penalty points or more over the next four races.
He was hit with a pair of five-second time penalties at the Russian GP for rule infringements on his reconnaissance laps half an hour before the race began.
The stewards said he failed to follow instructions from the race director that practice starts could only take place “on the right-hand side after the pit exit lights”.
Hamilton argued the rules do not specify how far after the lights, having pulled up on the right-hand side further down the pit exit.
He was also judged to have broken the sporting regulation that says drivers “going to the pit exit must do so at a constant speed and with constant throttle” which applies to “the whole of the pitlane”, which does not officially end until the end of the white line that allows drivers to rejoin the track.
“They’re trying to stop me” :: Lewis Hamilton
“It’s ridiculous the points they’ve been giving people this year in general,” said Hamilton when asked by The Race about being so close to a race ban.
“I would say from a driver’s point of view if you put someone else in danger, you crash into somebody, of course you should be getting penalty points.
“I did not harm anybody, I didn’t put anyone in harm’s way. So ultimately, it’s a ridiculous rule.
“But it is what it is. I’ll just make sure I’m squeaky clean moving forwards. Don’t give them an excuse for anything.”
Hamilton is dominating the 2020 season and is on course for a record-equalling seventh title. He would have equalled Michael Schumacher’s other long-standing record – 91 victories – had he won the Sochi race.
But he is so close to a race ban because of four other offences in the past 12 months, each of which earned him two licence penalty points.
“We’ll go through the rulebook and pick out the areas where they can create rules, areas where penalties have never been given before, and try and figure out all the ones that they have” :: Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton collided with Alex Albon in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. At this year’s season opener in Austria he failed to slow for yellow flags in qualifying, then collided with Albon again in the race.
Two races ago at Monza, Hamilton was guilty of another sporting regulation infraction as he entered the pitlane while it was closed, having failed to notice the trackside panels outlined in the race director’s notes.
His remark about not giving an “excuse” continued a frustrated reaction to the penalty from Hamilton, who had told Sky Sports F1 it was because “they’re trying to stop me”.
He said later: “I guess we’ll go through the rulebook and pick out the areas where they can create rules, areas where penalties have never been given before, and we will try and figure out all the ones that they have and try to make sure that we cover ourselves on the ones that we’re aware of.
“I don’t think anyone’s had the penalty for that before.
“I’ve gone through seasons before without penalties.
“So, I just have to make sure I give no reason, not even a sniff to be able to do something.”
Hamilton had the sympathy of second-place finisher Max Verstappen in the post-race press conference.
The Red Bull driver followed up Hamilton’s answer by saying it was “a bit harsh”.
Verstappen said: “I mean if you cause a crash it’s different, right? But I think the penalty Lewis got was already painful enough.
“Two points…It’s a bit harsh, that he’s up to 10 points.
“I mean OK, maybe it was not correct where he stopped, but penalty points for that? I’m not sure that’s correct.”