Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has been handed two five-second time penalties for a practice start violation ahead of the Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton started from pole position after he topped qualifying for the 96th time in his career on Saturday, beating Max Verstappen and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by over half a second, and is currently leading the race.

The Briton appeared to complete a practice start at the very end of the pit lane exit at Sochi, outside of the “designated area”. Other drivers were seen overtaking Hamilton as they exited the pits.

Hamilton has been handed two separate five-second time penalties, one for his practice start and one for a second illegal start.

Drivers are only allowed to complete practice starts at pit exit for safety reasons.

The guidance issued to drivers states: “Practice starts may only be carried out on the right-hand side after the pit exit lights and, for the avoidance of doubt, this includes any time the pit exit is open for the race. Drivers must leave adequate room on their left for another driver to pass.

“For reasons of safety and sporting equity, cars may not stop in the fast lane at any time the pit exit is open without a justifiable reason (a practice start is not considered a justifiable reason).”

It marks a massive blow to Hamilton’s chances of equalling Michael Schumacher’s all-time wins record of 91 grand prix victories.

Hamilton held a 55-point lead over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings heading into the race.

 

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