Hamilton escapes grid penalty in Saudi Arabia

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    • An FIA accredited F1 journalist since 2011

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Lewis Hamilton has escaped a penalty at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after the race stewards investigated two separate final practice incidents involving the Mercedes driver and decided neither warranted a drop of positions on the grid.

Hamilton was summoned to the stewards for ignoring double-waved yellow flags in the first half of the session and then for impeding Nikita Mazepin towards the end of the practice hour.

The stewards decided no further action was needed for the yellow flag incident and that only a reprimand (Hamilton’s second of the year) was sufficient for impeding the Haas driver.

Ignoring double-waved yellow flags usually carries a five-place grid penalty, but it turned out the signal was accidentally activated on the central marshalling system and there were no yellow flags or yellow light panels displayed on track.

“The Race Director reported to the Stewards that the double yellow flag warning on the FIA Marshalling System was activated at Light Panel Number 6 accidentally, for less than one second,” the stewards’ statement read.

“As the on-board video of Car 44 (to be released by the Commercial Rights Holder following this Decision) clearly shows, there was no yellow flag displayed, no yellow lights were displayed to that driver and the yellow warning light was not visible on the driver’s steering wheel.

“Unlike other incidents this year, there was no yellow flag or yellow light displayed to the driver (the driver already being well into the marshalling sector when the system was briefly activated) hence no breach of the regulations has occurred.”

The Mazepin incident occurred roughly 20 minutes later in the session when Hamilton, who was on a slowing down lap, was caught by the Haas driver in Turn 8. Hamilton blocked Mazepin’s line through the corner, forcing the Russian to skip over the inside of the kerbs to avoid a collision.

However, the stewards decided Mercedes’ communication with Hamilton was as much to blame and fined the team €25,000 as well as giving Hamilton a reprimand.

“The driver was given a 10-second warning that Car 9 [Mazepin] was approaching when he was at Turn 2,” the statement said. “Due to a failure in communication by the team he was not given another warning until Car 9 was alongside him.

“The stewards accept that this circuit presents challenges for drivers in relation to using their mirrors as the method of determining the approach of overtaking cars. Although it is the driver’s ultimate responsibility to avoid impeding, for this circuit the driver must depend upon the team to communicate efficiently.

“This did not happen in this case and accordingly the penalty for the competitor is imposed. The stewards take this opportunity to emphasise that due to the nature of this circuit it is essential that teams communicate effectively and proactively with their drivers. This is not to be taken as a precedent for other circuits.”

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