Hamilton accuses FIA of changing the rules
Lewis Hamilton has accused the FIA of changing the rules to “keep the racing exciting” after receiving a ten-second penalty that cost him a shot at Russian Grand Prix victory.
The six-times champion was deemed to have completed two practice starts in the wrong place, which wasn’t set out in the race directors notes. That lead to Hamilton receiving two-five seconds when pitting, dropping him out of the lead.
He eventually finished the race third as teammate Valtteri Bottas scored his second win of the season.
Hamilton said in the aftermath of the race that the stewards were “trying to stop me”, calling the penalty “ridiculous”. He was also initially handed two penalty points on his FIA super licence, only for the sanction to later be rescinded.
Those penalty points were ultimately rescinded, and Mercedes fined €25,000 after the stewards agreed the driver had only acted on an instruction from the team.
Asked if he felt targeted by the rulings, Hamilton explained that it was not him specifically, but whoever was dominating F1 that was susceptible to rulings to try and rein them in. He told Motorsport.com, “I don’t necessarily think that it’s for me.”
“I think probably most teams, whenever a team is at the front, obviously they are doing a lot of scrutiny. Everything we have on our car is being checked and double-checked and triple-checked.”
“They are changing rules, such as the engine regs, lots of lots of things to get in the way to keep the racing exciting, I assume. I don’t know if the rules, in terms of what happened today, was anything to do with it but naturally, that’s how it feels.”
Hamilton says it feels like they are fighting an uphill battle and they need to keep there heads down and try and do a better job.
Mercedes looks on course to win a seventh consecutive constructors’ championship in 2020 but has faced several regulation changes across the course of its streak.
“Harsh” to penalise Hamilton – Verstappen and Vettel
Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel have questioned the FIA’s Formula One penalty points system after a “harsh” sanction given to Lewis Hamilton was rescinded.
Hamilton was awarded a ten-second penalty and two points on his licence for completing two practice starts en-route to the grid that went against the FIA’s pre-race instructions. The points had put him just two away from a one-race ban.
However, the sanction was ultimately withdrawn after the FIA stewards agreed that Hamilton had only followed the Mercedes team’s instructions, and fined the team €25,000 instead. Had Hamilton kept the penalty points, he would have been one incident away from receiving a ban for the next four races.
Hamilton called the penalty “ridiculous” and said he felt officials were “trying to stop me”, while the sanction also received criticism from a number of his peers.
Verstappen believes it was “a bit harsh” to penalise Hamilton for a mistake made by the team.
The Dutchman told Motorsport.com, “If you causes a crash its difference, but the penalty Lewis got was already painful enough. I don’t know how many points you got – two points? – it’s a bit harsh, he’s up to 10 points.
“I mean, it was not correct where he stopped but penalty points for that, I’m not sure that’s correct. 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.”
Verstappen says the decision will be discussed at the next drivers briefing but admits it’s a case of seeing what happens.
Vettel says he believes that penalty points should only be handed out for dangerous moves on-track and not for team errors. Saying “I think if you really do some crazy moves on the track and some dangerous driving, then they’re justified.”
Bottas explains “To Whom it may concern…”
Valtteri Bottas says that his post-race message after winning the Russian Grand Prix was aimed at online critics who have been telling him to give up in recent weeks.
The Finn took his second win of the season in Sochi, after tea er teammate Lewis Hamilton was taken out of contention by a 10-second time penalty. After crossing the line, Bottas was congratulated by his engineer and responded with a message that was similar to the one he delivered after his race victory at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix.
He said on the radio “Haha yeah! F— yeah! I mean, again, it’s a nice moment to thank my critics: To whom it may concern, f— you.”
Speaking after the race, Bottas said the message was aimed at social media users who had told him to give up after a series of eight races without a victory.
“I just don’t get the people who have the need to criticise other people. You know, there’s been people telling me that I should not bother, I should give up, but how I am, I will never do that, so I just wanted to, again, send my best wishes to them.”
“It [the radio message] just came out, you know? But the main thing is I’m confident when I come to every race weekend, I’m confident and I believe I can do it, and that’s how I’m always going to be. You have to have that mindset, so yeah, I’m glad.”
Bottas says following the tough Q3, he didn’t give up and looked at it positively knowing that there would be opportunities. His win was his first since the opening race in Austria, saying there was an element of luck with Hamilton’s penalty, he believes the result made up for a series of recent races when he missed out by small margins.
Ocon believes Sochi his strongest race
Esteban Ocon believes that the Russian Grand Prix was his best race of the season until he made his pit stop to change to the hard tyres. The Frenchman jumped from seventh to fourth on the opening lap and then held that position until teammate Daniel Ricciardo made his stop.
Ocon had made his pit stop two laps later, he then found it difficult on the hard tyres leading to a switch with Riccardo. The Renault driver then also lost out to Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc on his way to an eventual seventh place.
Despite the frustration of slipping down the order, he still viewed the race as a positive one. He told Motorsport.com, “Probably the first part of the race I agree that it was probably the strongest of my season so far. I had a good start, and the pace was very, very strong.”
“In that soft stint very comparable to Daniel, except that I managed to keep the tyres a bit more alive for a couple more laps, which definitely felt nice. Unfortunately, after the stop with the hard tyres, it was a bit more difficult. So we still have a few things to review on that.”
Ocon believes there were still points on the table, the team has been consistent at races recently. Ricciardo earning two fourths, a fifth and a sixth in the last four races, and Ocon also scoring in three of those events.
The team’s target is to be consistent everywhere, Ocon believing that in the last few races the team has improved it set up.
Schumacher to make practice debut
Mick Schumacher will make his Formula One practice debut at the Nürburgring in the first of three outings this season for Ferrari Academy drivers. Teammate Callum llott will also make his practice debut at the Eifel Grand Prix.
Schumacher who currently leads the Formula Two championship by twenty points following the Russian Grand Prix is believed to be a leading candidate for a race seat with Haas or Alfa Romeo next season
Schumacher said: “I am overjoyed to get this chance in free practice. The fact that my first participation in a Formula 1 weekend will take place in front of my home audience at the Nürburgring makes this moment even more special.
“For the next 10 days, I’m going to prepare myself well, so that I can do the best possible job for the team and gain some valuable data for the weekend.”
Ilott described the test as “a real privilege”, adding: “It’s amazing to have this chance at a track that is one of my favourites – it was where I scored the first podium of my career back in 2015.”
Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies, who is also the director of the Ferrari driver academy, said: “We wanted to organise this test session so that our three best youngsters would be as well prepared as possible to tackle an event that will always be a special moment for them.
For both driver it will be their second test in a car, Ilott drove in a test following the Spanish Grand Prix last month.
Melbourne set to host the opening race
Motorsport.com says it has learnt that organisers of the Australian Grand Prix are still planning to hold next years race on the 12 – 14 March. This years race was abandoned on the Friday after a number of people tested positive for Coronavirus.
However, the city of Melbourne is currently going through its second wave and lockdown. There are plans to have a spectator allowance as well, although Australia’s strict COVID-safe protocols will likely mean capacity will be limited and grandstands re-positioned.
The other issue could be the closure of the country’s borders, although prime minister Scott Morrison today hinted at a potential for “alternative methods” to hotel quarantine to be used for arrivals from low-risk locations.
The 14th March date would work well for Supercars, which is expected to open its 2021 season with a sprint event at Mount Panorama in late February.