Hamilton’s ‘illegal move’ avoids penalty
Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has been reprimanded by stewards but escaped a sanction that would have stripped him of a stunning German Grand Prix victory.
The decision was announced after the Briton was summoned by Hockenheim stewards for a possible pit-lane infringement.
The Mercedes driver, who won from 14th on the grid, was suspected of having illegally crossed a line separating the entry from the track when he hurriedly changed his mind about pitting during a safety car period.
Hamilton finished 4.5 seconds ahead of Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas, and 6.7 clear of Ferrari's third-placed Kimi Raikkonen, but a time penalty would have demoted him down the order.
Stewards took into consideration the fact that the incident happened when the safety car was deployed and at a time of confusion on the pit wall. They also found that "at no time was there any danger to any other competitor and the change in direction was executed in a safe way."
The summons came more than an hour after the end of the race at Hockenheim, after the podium presentations and news conferences.
Hamilton's victory had catapulted him 17 points clear of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, the home favourite who crashed out while leading on a wet and slippery track.
"I started turning in, then they asked me to box and then I said 'Kimi is pitting' and then they said 'Stay out' and I was already in the lane," Hamilton told reporters after the race when asked what had happened.
"So I started turning out and trying to go over the grass and then they said 'no, stay in!' and I was already back on track.
"It was really confusing because they were all panicking on the pit wall, I was probably the only relaxed one," he said. "They were shouting 'yes, no, come in, don't come in'. It was exciting."
Australia's Daniel Ricciardo retired on Lap 28 after reporting loss of power, compounding a miserable weekend which saw him start at the back of the grid due to power unit penalties.
It was the 66th win of his F1 career and minutes after the finish, the heavens opened with an array of thunder and lightning and a fierce downpour that would have stopped any race.
"Miracles do happen, mate," Hamilton's race engineer Pete Bonnington told him over the radio after a slow-burner that turned into one of the great comebacks of the Briton's already stellar career.
Hamilton, who threw himself across the pitlane wall into the arms of his mechanics and also got a bear-hug from delighted Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche, seemed about as stunned as anyone.
"The rain has come down and washed away all the negativity and its a glorious day," Hamilton said.
"It couldn't be a better day."
Beaten by Vettel in his home British Grand Prix two weeks ago, where he went from pole to the back of the field and up to second, he had turned the tables completely.
For Vettel, it was simply a nightmare -- the chance to make big gains slipping through his hands in an instant. He now has 171 points to Hamilton's 188. He pummelled the steering wheel angrily after the car crumpled against the tyre wall, the lap 52 incident bringing out the safety car.
"I had it in my hands -- small mistake, big disappointment," said the German.
"I threw it away. It was my mistake. We had the pace and we controlled the race for most of it.
"We had the race in the bag."
Vettel, who made key mistakes last season as Hamilton secured the title, seemed keen to use the rain as a factor for his crash on Sunday.
"It's not like tonight I'll have difficulties to fall asleep, because of what I've done wrong. We didn't need the rain," he said. "It was a small mistake but a big impact on the race. A tiny bit too late on the brakes, I locked the rears and I couldn't turn. It wasn't the biggest mistake I've done, but one of the mostly costly ones."
THE FIA'S RULING IN FULL
"The stewards reviewed video and audio evidence, heard from the driver of car 44 (Lewis Hamilton) and the team representative. It was clear that there was an infringement of the above mentioned rule - the driver clearly crossed the line separating the pit entry from the track.
"In deciding on the penalty for the infringement, we took into account the following mitigating factors.
"i) The driver and the team candidly admitted the mistake and the fact that there was confusion within the team as to whether to stay out or to enter the pits and that led to the infringement.
"ii) The fact that the infringement took place during a safety car period
"iii) At no time was there any danger to any other competitor and the change in direction was executed in a safe way."
1. (14) Lewis Hamilton, Britain, Mercedes GP, 67 laps, 1:32:29.845, 25.
2. (2) Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Mercedes GP, 67, +4.535, 18.
3. (3) Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Ferrari, 67, +6.732, 15.
4. (4) Max Verstappen, Netherlands, Red Bull, 67, +7.654, 12.
5. (7) Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, Renault, 67, +26.609, 10.
6. (6) Romain Grosjean, France, Haas F1, 67, +28.871, 8.
7. (10) Sergio Perez, Mexico, Force India, 67, +30.556, 6.
8. (16) Esteban Ocon, France, Force India, 67, +31.750, 4.
9. (13) Marcus Ericsson, Sweden, Sauber-Ferrari, 67, +32.362, 2.
10. (18) Brendon Hartley, New Zealand, Scuderia Toro Rosso, 67, +34.197, 1.
11. (5) Kevin Magnussen, Denmark, Haas F1, 67, +34.919.
12. (8) x-Carlos Sainz, Spain, Renault, 67, +43.069.
13. (20) Stoffel Vandoorne, Belgium, McLaren, 67, +46.617.
14. (17) Pierre Gasly, France, Scuderia Toro Rosso, 66, +1 lap.
15. (9) Charles Leclerc, Monaco, Sauber-Ferrari, 66, +1 lap.
16. (11) Fernando Alonso, Spain, McLaren, 65, DNF.
17. (19) Lance Stroll, Canada, Williams, 53, DNF.
18. (1) Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Ferrari, 51, DNF.
19. (12) Sergey Sirotkin, Russia, Williams, 51, DNF.
20. (15) Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Red Bull, 27, DNF.
x-Finished the race in 10th place, received a 10-second time penalty for overtaking under Safety Car conditions.
1. Lewis Hamilton, 188
2. Sebastian Vettel, 171
3. Kimi Raikkonen, 131
4. Valtteri Bottas, 122
5. Daniel Ricciardo, 106
6. Max Verstappen, 105
7. Nico Hulkenberg, 52
8. Fernando Alonso, 40
9. Kevin Magnussen, 39
10. Sergio Perez, 30
11. Esteban Ocon, 29
12. Carlos Sainz, 28
13. Romain Grosjean, 20
14. Pierre Gasly, 18
15. Charles Leclerc, 13
16. Stoffel Vandoorne, 8
17. Marcus Ericsson, 5
18. Lance Stroll, 4
19. Brendon Hartley, 2
1. Mercedes GP, 310
2. Ferrari, 302
3. Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer, 211
4. Renault, 80
5. Force India Mercedes, 59
6. Haas Ferrari, 59
7. McLaren Renault, 48
8. Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda, 20
9. Sauber Ferrari, 18
10. Williams Mercedes, 4