Mercedes’s track engineering director Andrew Shovlin says the team only expected to get a ‘telling off’ for Lewis Hamilton’s practice starts.
The Brit’s chances of getting a 91st win were hugely hindered when he was handed a 10-second time penalty for carrying out pre-race practice starts in an undesignated area.
Specifically, he did so by the pit-lane exit after being given permission by the team, feeling that there was too much rubber on the usual spot.
“In some places, there’s a box that they paint on the floor, and you’ve got to do it in the box,” Shovlin told Motorsport.com.
“Then other places, it’s kind of a general area. And often, if there’s a lot of rubber, that’s not going to be representative of the grid.
“The drivers and also the engineers will want to find a bit that’s closer in terms of the grip to expect on the grid. And all it was was Lewis asked if he could go a bit further.
“We hadn’t realised quite how far he was going to go. But it’s really just trying to find a bit of tarmac that’s more like the one that you’re going to get when you do the proper race start.”
Shovlin says that the team quickly realised the mistake they and Hamilton had made when they saw the six-time World Champion doing his second practice start.
However, they didn’t expect to be handed a penalty for it, instead of thinking that the FIA would just warn them.
“We didn’t see the first one, and when we saw the second one, we thought, ‘They’re not going to like that,’ but we didn’t think it was dangerous,” he added.
“And given the event notes said that it was on the right-hand side after the pit exit we thought it might have been ambiguous enough that we would have just got a telling off.
“When we saw the car position, it wasn’t a complete surprise that they didn’t like it. And no doubt there may have been teams who flagged it as much as whether the FIA or the stewards spotted it themselves.”
With his penalty, Hamilton could do no better than finish P3. It wasn’t all bad for the German team though as Valtteri Bottas took the victory.