Mercedes boss Toto Wolff agreed with his Lewis Hamilton that the stewards treat him too harshly.
The six-time World Champion was given a pair of five-second time penalties for performing practice starts too far down the pit exit, and that 10-second deficit would cost Hamilton what looked likely to be a seventh win of the season.
He went from leading to P11 after serving the penalty at his pit stop.
Hamilton was able to recover to P3, but team-mate Valtteri Bottas won the race and cut his deficit to Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship to 44 points.
Hamilton was also given two penalty points for his superlicence, though they were later rescinded by the FIA.
And while Wolff agreed that Hamilton shouldn’t have performed practice starts where he did, he can’t understand how the Stewards’ reached their verdict.
Asked if he would have done a practice start halfway down the pit exit, Wolff, a former racer himself, told Sky F1: “No and that was exactly the verdict from the stewards, they said it’s not the place where you would do a race start and I agree with that.
“But in the directors’ notes it said you can make a practice start after the light on the right-hand side…and that’s what he did.
“So there is room for interpretation and clearly we have to analyse why we made the mistake and just take this one on the chin, even though we were at the stewardsW and agree to disagree.”
After the race Hamilton accused the stewards of trying to stop him from claiming a record-equalling seventh World Championship this season, and Wolff can certainly see where his star driver is coming from.
“I think Lewis has faced a lot of adversity in his life, and to all of us the penalty seems a little harsh,” he confirmed.
“Never before pre-race on a reconnaissance lap has an incident been penalised with an in-race penalty, so that’s new, and that can also be debated.
“But I think things go against him harshly sometimes and if you are the most successful driver you have to take it sometimes.”
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) September 27, 2020
This isn’t the first time that a misinterpretation of the rules has cost Mercedes. Hamilton lost what was set to be another victory at the Italian Grand Prix courtesy of a 10-second stop-go penalty for entering the pit lane when closed.
“I think like we’ve always done in the past we win and lose together, and we’ve never pointed the finger at a person or a group,” Wolff continued.
“We try to analyse what we can do better and how we can improve, and clearly we’ve had two incidents now in Monza and here where we probably could have had a better judgement, all of us together.
“And this is something that’s going to make us better for the long-term.”
Mercedes did at least keep their 100% winning record at the Sochi Autodrom intact, and Wolff said Bottas’ second win at the Russian Grand Prix and of the 2020 season was “overdue”.
“I’m really happy that we have maintained the 100% race win record here, and the race win for Valtteri was overdue since a long time,” he said.
“Today he drove a brilliant race, there was no mistake, well managed in terms of the tyres and the way he controlled it at the end, he cruised to the finish line.”