Mercedes Formula 1 trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has revealed the team had concerns that the Russian Grand Prix stewards were “not going to like” Lewis Hamilton’s practice starts.

Hamilton received a 10-second time penalty for breaking practice-start rules ahead of Sunday’s race in Sochi, costing him the chance of equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 race victories as Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas capitalised to win.

Hamilton had asked his team whether he could conduct his practice start “further out… to the end of the pit wall” due to discarded rubber in the usual practice spot. His race engineer Peter Bonnington replied giving him approval providing he left room for other cars to pass.

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Speaking after the race, Shovlin explained that Mercedes did not see just how far out Hamilton was planning to do his practice start and only realised it was not going to go down well with the stewards when he performed his second start.

“Lewis asked if he could go a bit further,” Shovlin explained. “We hadn’t realised quite how far he was he was going to go.”

“We didn’t see the first one. When we saw the second one we thought ‘they’re not going to like that’.

“We didn’t think it was dangerous,” he added. “And given that 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.

“But when we saw the car position, it wasn’t a complete surprise that they didn’t like it.”

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said he believed the penalties imposed on Hamilton in Sochi were “far-fetched” and refused to apportion blame to either the team nor the driver.

Hamilton was also handed two penalty points on his licence – moving him to the verge of an automatic race ban – but these were later rescinded in a rare U-turn by the FIA.

 

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