Mercedes boss Toto Wolff explained how Lewis Hamilton was allowed to enter a closed pitlane and pick up a race-ruining penalty at the Italian GP.
Hamilton put his W11 on pole at Monza and after retaining the lead off the line built a gap over Carlos Sainz in P2.
That lead disappeared though after the Safety Car came out to cover Kevin Magnussen’s broken down Haas near the pit entry.
It seemed though that Hamilton’s luck was in, a free pit stop under the SC and back out in the lead.
But in reality his luck was out. The pitlane had been closed as a result of Magnussen’s position but Hamilton still entered it and completed a pit stop, even though footage showed two LED boards with an ‘x’ on them at the Parabolica to signal that the pit lane was closed.
Hamilton got a 10-second stop-go penalty, with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi receiving the same punishment for an identical offense, and that penalty left Hamilton 23 seconds adrift of the pack, though he recovered to finish P7 and also picked up a bonus point for the fastest lap.
So, just how did Mercedes manage to miss those boards?
“It was a weird sequence of events that maybe we could have spotted earlier,” Wolff told reporters at Monza.
“The decisions that were taken were highly unusual, but they were absolutely within the rules.
“One of the Haas [cars] was parked to the right, near the entry, on the inside of Parabolica, and there was a single yellow. Eleven seconds later, a Safety Car was deployed.
“Once the Safety Car was deployed, they put the entry to the pit lane on red, but it wasn’t exactly red, it was two yellow crosses on the outside.
“One of the strategists just shouted into the radio whilst we were entering the pit lane. There was confusion.
“We can’t see the signs, and this is just a sequence of events that screwed Lewis’s race. Not happy, but you have to take it on the chin.”
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So, the only way Mercedes could have known that the pitlane had been closed was if they had have reached for page four of the FIA’s timing information, according to Wolff.
“From the pit wall, you can’t see these yellow crosses, and if the driver doesn’t spot them, which I believe is absolutely the truth, the only way you can see that the pit lane was closed was on page four of the FIA communications system,” he explained.
“Nobody looks at that page when the safety car is deployed, the driver is about to come into the pits. Everything is concentrated around the pit stop.
“Unlucky, I would say, and a very unusual decision to close the pit lane.”
Hamilton has already said that he didn’t see the boards and took “full responsibility” for the error.
Fortunately for the Briton Max Verstappen retired from the race, meaning his Championship lead remains at 47 points after team-mate Valtteri Bottas leapfrogged the Red Bull driver into P2 in the standings after finishing fifth at Monza.