Lewis Hamilton has been told by former Formula 1 driver Johnny Herbert that he deserved to be punished by the FIA at the Qatar Grand Prix, but not for his collision with George Russell. The Mercedes star was handed a retrospective fine by the world motorsport governing body a week after the race had concluded at Lusail, but Herbert was in full agreement with their decision to penalise Hamilton despite receiving widespread criticism.
Hamilton was forced to retire from the race when he crashed into team-mate Russell on the first lap and left his W14 car stranded in the gravel. The Briton then exited his car and walked across the track after the Safety Car had led the rest of the field past the corner at a reduced pace, contravening FIA rules that prohibit drivers from crossing a ‘live track’.
After the race, Hamilton apologised to the race stewards but it did not prevent him from receiving a £43,350 fine, half of which was suspended. However, the incident is now being re-examined by the FIA, as the sport’s governing body noted Hamilton’s position as a “role model” means younger drivers could follow his lead.
And Herbert, 59, admitted Hamilton could not have any complaints at being disciplined by F1’s overbearing lawmakers for breaching safety regulations.
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“Lewis Hamilton is definitely a role model,” Herbert told Lucky Block. “However, walking across the track was the wrong thing to do.”
The FIA has received criticism from some quarters of motorsport for taking the unusual step of reviewing its own punishment, especially as Karun Chandhok pointed out that Max Verstappen and Logan Sargeant escaped punishment for similar separate incidents in the past. They have since responded by stating they are not singling out Hamilton.
Herbert, a three-time race winner with Benetton and Stewart Ford, has instead urged the FIA to change their approach in another area. He joined calls for the FIA to take a step back in its heavy-handed approach to penalising drivers, insisting there was no intention from Hamilton to take his team-mate out.
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“The criticisms levelled against him for the accident with Russell going into Turn 1 was not fair, that was part of racing. He only needed to give another six inches for it to be absolutely fine, but his judgment was not quite there,” he added.
“Even a seven-time world champion makes mistakes. Even the best have made mistakes. And Lewis has made very few mistakes in his career. I’d struggle to count them on the fingers of one hand.
“Sometimes I just think the sport should just let the drivers race, let them get on with it without making so many rules which interfere with the race itself.”
Hamilton will be back in action at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin this weekend as Mercedes look to close the gap on Red Bull and end their winless run, which stretches back to Brazil in the 2022 season.
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