Red Bull boss Christian Horner has joked Mercedes’ Formula 1 reserve driver should start training for the “pretty awkward” prospect of Lewis Hamilton being hit with a race ban.

Hamilton was handed two five-second time penalties for breaching practice-start rules prior to the start of Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix and was also given two penalty points on his license, taking him within two points of incurring an automatic race ban.

In a rare U-turn, the FIA later rescinded the penalty points after Mercedes admitted it had wrongly advised Hamilton that he would be okay to practice his starts at the end of the pitlane, outside of the designated area.

The world championship leader now has eight penalty points to his name, meaning he is four away from triggering a ban. Hamilton has four more races to complete before any further points are wiped away following the Turkish Grand Prix in November.

Asked if he would be nervous having a driver so close to a race ban, Horner - speaking before the FIA reversed its decision - joked: “Well I’ve been in that position with a road car license and I tell you what, it’s not a particularly nice feeling!

“Because the slightest thing could mean that he’s on the bench for a race weekend. So, it’s going to be pretty awkward for him.

“He’s still got a couple of races to get through which… Anything can happen. It’s the slightest thing to collect those points.

“I don’t know who the Mercedes reserve driver is, but I would think they’re in the gym just in case.”

Mercedes has two reserve drivers it could call on if it needed a substitute, Ex-McLaren-turned-Formula E racer Stoffel Vandoorne, and Esteban Gutierrez.

Mercedes made another mistake at the Italian Grand Prix, where Hamilton was brought in for a pit stop when the pitlane was closed, costing him the chance of winning the race.

And Horner believes Red Bull is well-positioned to capitalise on Mercedes’ errors if it can improve the performance of its car.

“That’s why we desperately would like to get a car to challenge them, because I think operationally we have a very strong team,” Horner added.

“We demonstrated that again with the fastest pit stop - if we didn’t break the record they were certainly very, very close to it. It was the fastest one that we’ve measured, I got 1.8 seconds on my watch.

“We can only focus on ourselves, they obviously have had some issues and when you’re constantly at the front, it’s easier sometimes to be the challenger team. Sometimes complacency can slip in when you’ve had such a period of dominance.”

 

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