Lewis Hamilton’s two penalty points applied during the Russian Grand Prix have been rescinded and replaced with a €25,000 team fine.
The Formula 1 world champion moved to just two penalty points from a one-race ban after being handed a pair of time penalties in the Russian GP for out-of-position practice start offences on reconnaissance laps in the build-up.
Hamilton lost the lead of the race with his cumulative 10-second time penalty and finished third, and slammed the “ridiculous” penalty points system that automatically punishes drivers for offences that result in a penalty – unless it is a fine or a reprimand.
He had the sympathy of several rivals after the race including Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.
However, the Russian GP stewards have now reversed their decision to award Hamilton the penalty points.
They said they received information that Mercedes gave Hamilton the instruction to perform the practice start in the incorrect place, which the stewards confirmed by listening to audio between the team and driver.
In a pre-race radio exchange Hamilton asked permission from Mercedes to go “further round” because of the amount of rubber build-up in the area where others were practicing starts and was told he could do so “as long as you leave enough room for cars to pass”.
The stewards therefore opted to remove the penalty points imposed and fined Mercedes €25,000 instead.
It means Hamilton is back to having eight penalty points on his licence in a 12-month period, giving him more breathing room before two points are removed after the Turkish Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s fellow leading drivers had sympathised with his position close to a race ban as they believe licence penalty points should not be applied for minor infringements.
Verstappen was the first to voice his support, calling it “a bit harsh” in the post-race press conference and later adding: “He was penalised enough by having this penalty in the race so I don’t think you’d need to hand out penalty points for that.
“But I guess we’ll talk about it in the next briefing we have and see if something will happen or not.”
Asked by The Race for his opinion following the comments of Hamilton and Verstappen, four-time world champion Vettel said: “I agree. Simple as that.
“I think if you do some crazy moves on the track and dangerous driving then they are justified.
“But if you’re speeding in the pitlane or minor infringements then it’s probably not the time to apply penalty points.”
His team-mate Leclerc said: “I have to agree a little bit with Seb, on some things.
“A driver like Lewis I don’t think he has done a big mess over the year to be honest.
“Surely we need to find a way to penalise the drivers in a way they feel it but it’s a bit weird to see Lewis only two points off a race ban, I don’t think he has done anything particularly wrong this year.
“Maybe there’s a better way to do it, I don’t know.”
Ricciardo compared it to footballers receiving heavy punishment for a “very dangerous tackle” but only a caution for something less severe.
“If you are to miss a race for a few of these, let’s say, minor infringements it’s a little extreme,” he said.
“I haven’t heard what was said in the press conference but I understand the tone of voice and I would defend that, especially if Lewis has the penalty in today’s race for that.
“I don’t think it requires a further penalty and potentially him missing a race.
“Would it spice up the championship? Sure. But honestly speaking I would side with them [the other drivers] on that one.”