Wolff agrees to disagree on ‘far-fetched’ penalty

Michelle Foster
Toto Wolff

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Although Mercedes believe Lewis Hamilton’s Russian GP penalties were “far-fetched”, Toto Wolff says they will respect the stewards’ decision.

Starting from pole position at the Sochi Autodrom, Hamilton’s chances of equalling Michael Schumacher’s all-time record for the most F1 victories was dealt a blow when the stewards announced prior to the start that he was under investigation for practicing a start outside the designated area.

Hamilton felt there was too much rubber in the zone and asked Mercedes if he could “go further out”. The team gave him the go-ahead, telling him to “leave enough room for cars to pass”.

That, however, was against the rules.

As such the stewards announced during the grand prix that Hamilton had two five-second penalties for practice start infringements.

Taking the two together during his pit stop, the Brit’s hopes of winning the race were dealt a massive blow and he had to settle for third behind Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen.

He was also handed two penalty points on his licence although the stewards later backtracked on that, instead fining Mercedes €25,000 for telling the driver he could practice a start outside the zone.

Wolff was not impressed with the punishment, neither Hamilton’s nor Mercedes’.

He told Motorsportweek.com: “Ron [Meadows] and I were [with] the stewards, the verdict was that he wasn’t in the right place.

“There is no mention what the right place is in the directors’ note, nor is it in the regulations.

“The other one was for not driving at constant speed in the reconnaissance laps, and again, it’s debatable but the race has happened.

“He received a 10-second penalty. For the reconnaissance lap infringement, an in-race penalty can be debated also but we have to take it on the chin and move on.

“I’m not happy with the penalty because it’s far-fetched.

“But we will agree to disagree and I will always respect the stewards’ and their job but on that one we will agree to disagree.”

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As for Hamilton, the Brit feels the FIA and the stewards are trying to do all they can to stop his run.

“I need to go back and see what the rules are,” Hamilton told Sky F1 in the Sochi paddock.

“I need to see exactly what I did wrong. I’m pretty sure nobody has got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before.

“I didn’t put anyone in danger, I’ve done this [type of start] at a million tracks over the years and never been questioned on it.

“But it is what it is.

“They [the stewards] are trying to stop me. But it’s ok, I just need to try keep my head down and stay focused then see what happens.”

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