Lewis Hamilton’s claim that he and his Mercedes team are being unfairly targeted to make Formula One more competitive has been strongly denied by the FIA.
The world champion accused the FIA of attempting to “stop” him as he moves closer to taking his seventh world championship after he was penalised at the Russian Grand Prix. However the F1 race director, Michael Masi, has insisted there is no bias against the British driver.
Hamilton was given two five-second penalties at Sochi for taking a practice start outside the designated area in the pit lane exit on his way to the grid. He started from pole but once he took the penalties during a pit stop the best he could manage was to come back to third. He described the punishment as “ridiculous” and said: “It is to be expected, they are trying to stop me aren’t they.”
Masi dismissed his accusations and defended the decision of the stewards. “From an FIA perspective we are there as a sporting regulator to administer the regulations,” he said. “We have the stewards as an independent judiciary to adjudicate those, and therefore there was an infringement and it doesn’t matter if it was Lewis Hamilton or any one of the other 19 drivers. If a breach has occurred of the regulations they will consider it on its merits. Also further to that I would say [they] adjudicate it equitably and fairly in the circumstances, taking all of the key elements into account.”
Hamilton was initially also given two penalty points for the infringement, later rescinded when it became clear Mercedes had told their driver it was acceptable for him to practise his start further down the pit lane than was allowed. Hamilton has said he may discuss the matter with Masi before the next round at the Nurburgring and the race director made it clear he would welcome a chance to clarify the FIA position.
“From my perspective it’s very simple that if Lewis wants to raise something – as I have said to him before and said to all the drivers numerous times – the door is always open, I’m more than happy to discuss anything,” he said.
Mercedes did not appeal against the penalties but argued that there was ambiguity in the rules that did not specify where a driver could practise starts. The Mercedes engineering director, Andrew Shovlin, has however admitted they were immediately concerned that Hamilton had gone too far down the pit lane exit. “We hadn’t realised quite how far he was going to go,” he said. “When we saw the car position it was not a complete surprise that they didn’t like it.”