Lewis Hamilton got off lightly with a 10-second penalty at the Russian Grand Prix because his practice starts were “dangerous”.
That’s according to ex-F1 racer and now pundit Marc Surer, who asked: “Why does he think he is the only driver who can [practice] start at a different location?”
Hamilton finished third at Sochi behind his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen after incurring two separate five-second penalties, both of which he served at the same pit-stop, for practising starts in the wrong place.
The World Champion started the race from pole position and was in the lead when he made his only pit-stop, whereafter he never looked like finishing higher than P3.
Surer was unhappy that the Briton had performed his practice starts “at the end of the confusing, curved pit exit” at almost a 45-degree angle – as quoted by Motorsport-Total.com for whom he allocates driver gradings race-by-race on the basis of their performance across the whole weekend.
“At this point, someone who practised the start correctly at the end of the box is already 200 km/h on it. So it was also dangerous and so, in my opinion, the penalty was mild,” said the 69-year-old Swiss who drove in F1 races for several teams, including Brabham, between 1979 and 1986.
With Surer’s gradings ranging from a top score of one down to six, he gave Hamilton a three for his performance at Sochi – but was much more scathing of the World Champion’s race engineer Pete ‘Bono’ Bonnington.
It was Bonnington who had given Hamilton the go-ahead over the team radio to practise the starts where he did. “Bonnington actually deserves a sixth grade,” said Surer, who gave none of the drivers lower than a four – which applied to seven of the 20 in the field.
Top marks from Surer went to Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, who finished second and fourth respectively for Red Bull and Racing Point.
Verstappen was given a grade one “especially for the qualifying lap”. Perez, who, like the Red Bull driver, finished the grand prix in the same position as his grid spot, got the same score having lived up to his reputation as a “tyre whisperer” and showed a “strong performance both in training and in the race”.