HOCKENHEIM, Germany -- Lewis Hamilton has kept his German Grand Prix victory after being issued a reprimand for an incident in the closing stages of race.
A mix-up in communication between the Mercedes pit wall and Hamilton saw the reigning world champion enter the pit lane on lap 53, only to bail out at the last moment and cut across the grass separating the pit lane entrance and the track. In the hours following the podium ceremony Hamilton was summoned to see the stewards as they investigated a potential breach of the FIA International Sporting Code.
Hamilton's margin of 4.5s over Valtteri Bottas meant the win was under threat, as the precedent set for a similar incident with Kimi Raikkonen at the 2016 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a five-second penalty. However, after deliberation the stewards issued Hamilton a reprimand for the incident, his first of the current season, meaning his final race time remained unaltered.
The stewards took three factors into account when deciding against issuing a time penalty:
(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.
The verdict concluded: "Taking all of the above into account, including considering previous infringements of the above rule, we are of the opinion that a reprimand would be the appropriate penalty for the said infringement on this occasion."
By contrast, the Raikkonen incident mentioned above had occured at full racing speed at Baku's notoriously tricky pit entry. In that instance, Raikkonen had placed all four wheels inside the pit entry lines while racing wheel to wheel with Daniel Ricciardo, highlighting why the stewards may have opted to break with precedent in this case.
Hamilton appeared in front of the media shortly after his visit to the stewards.
Explianing the incident, he said: "It was the most confusing second and a half and I honestly thought I was going to stay out, I was happy with my tyres and then they said come in and I saw Valtteri ahead coming in so I was like 'are you sure about it' and by the time we got in they were like 'no stay out' and it was literally twice, 'go left, go right', so I just slowed down and trundled over some grass.
"I made sure that I returned to the track as safety as I could. Then you you heard the radio afterwards and I was like guys, it was the most confusing couple of seconds with them shouting in my ear, 'go left, go right'. I think it was still pretty exciting."