FIA: Mercedes pit stop bluff 'part of the game'

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MONZA, Italy -- FIA race director Charlie Whiting has rubbished suggestions Mercedes broke the sporting regulations at the Italian Grand Prix by bringing their pit crew into the pit lane without making a pit stop.

The Mercedes pit crew assembled twice in the pit lane on lap 20 and lap 21 without completing a pit stop before Lewis Hamilton finally made his stop on lap 28 and Valtteri Bottas on lap 36.

Under Article 28.12 of the sporting regulations "Team personnel are only allowed in the pit lane immediately before they are required to work on a car and must withdraw as soon as the work is complete."

Some social media reaction after the race suggested Mercedes may have been in breach of the regulation by bringing their pit crew into the pit lane without making a stop, but Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said they were simply giving themselves the option of doing the opposite of race leader Kimi Raikkonen, who made his stop on lap 20.

"It wasn't a phantom stop," Wolff said. "You need to be prepared if you undercut or overcut. We didn't know if Kimi was coming in so the message was to do the opposite. Doing the opposite means you need to have the pit crew prepared."

Whiting said Article 28.12 exists in the sporting regulations to stop the pit lane becoming crowded and that he has no problem with teams changing their mind about a pit stop at the last minute.

"My feeling is that it is all part of the game," he said. "We don't like teams hanging around in the pit lane if they are not actually doing a pit stop, but if they come out as if there are going to do one ... if they did it every lap I think we would have something to say.

"But they may well have been thinking about doing one and then changed their mind, so unless someone does something overtly incorrect I don't think we will do anything about it."

When it was put to Whiting that Mercedes pit box was directly in front of Ferrari's and the presence of the pit crew may have obstructed Raikkonen's approach to his own pit box, the FIA race director added: "If they do then we will have a look at it. If it's clear that that's what they are doing, to make it more difficult for another car to come in and they had no intention of pitting, then we might well want to investigate it."