Formula 1 race director Michael Masi has come under fire with claims of a lack in transparency and inconsistency in the dishing out of penalties in light of Lewis Hamilton’s double infringement in the latest Russian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was sentenced two five-second penalties on Lap 7 of the race for doing two practice starts on his reconnaissance laps outside the designated zone. The Brit served his penalty during his first pitstop and ultimately gifted victory to teammate Valtteri Bottas.
A furious Hamilton scolded the penalty as harsh and unfair, suggesting the FIA is out to target his Mercedes team because of their dominance of the sport. Penalties for Hamilton in Monza led to an exciting race, and it seems only when Mercedes is shoved out of the overall picture that the racing lives up to its expectations.
“Whenever a team is at the front they are under a lot of scrutiny,” said Hamilton.
“Everything we have on our car is being triple-checked, they are changing rules such as the engine regulations and lots of things to try and keep the race exciting, I assume.
“I don’t know if the rules in terms of what happened today is anything to do with it but naturally that’s how it feels. It feels like you are fighting uphill but that’s OK. It’s not like I haven’t faced adversity before.”
However, an almost identical situation from the Belgian Grand Prix involving Charles Leclerc was swept under the rug. Only now is it being called into the spotlight on the basis it suggests the FIA is inconsistent with its rulings.
Leclerc stopped for a practice start on his reconnaissance lap before the race at Spa which triggered an FIA investigation. He too stopped outside the designated zone but nothing came to fruition, and the Ferrari driver was left off the hook.
Leclerc’s ‘ghost’ practice start was never formally acknowledged, and the fact Hamilton committed an identical foul just a few races later suggests the FIA did not arise the situation with its drivers nor teams.
Should Leclerc had been punished, or Hamilton unpunished, the FIA would not be under an increasing barrage of complaints about its fickleness when it comes to penalties.
Masi is yet to come forward and clarify exactly why the governing body felt Hamilton’s punishment fitted the crime and why they took a vastly different approach to Leclerc back in Spa.
“If Lewis wants to raise something, as I have said to him before, the door is always open,” said Masi back in Sochi.
“I am more than happy to discuss anything. As the FIA, we are the sporting regulator to administer the regulations. We have the stewards as an independent judiciary to adjudicate those.
“There was an infringement, and it doesn’t matter if it was Lewis or any one of the other 19 drivers.
“If a breach of the regulations occurred, the stewards will consider it on its merits.”
The FIA has already come under fire earlier in the year at the Hungarian Grand Prix where an obvious jump start by Bottas did not result in an investigation. The Finn went on to finish third.
Similarly, the FIA’s private settlement with Scuderia Ferrari over the results of an investigation into the team’s 2019 power unit highlights a grey area concerning the lack of transparency between the sport and its teams.
For Hamilton, the reigning world champion is now at risk of a receiving a one-race ban if he picks up four more penalty points across the rest of the season. Thus, the Brit has pledged to drive squeaky-clean for the remaining few races.
“I’ll make sure I’m squeaky clean moving forwards — don’t give them an excuse for anything.
“I guess we’ll go through the rule book and pick out areas where they can create rules, areas where penalties have never been given before. We’ll try to figure out all the ones that they have and try to make sure that we cover ourselves in the ones that we are aware of.”