SPIELBERG, Austria -- Championship leader Lewis Hamilton will drop from second to fourth position on the Austrian Grand Prix grid after blocking Kimi Raikkonen during qualifying on Saturday.
A slow-moving Hamilton had just emerged from a stint in the pits when he was caught by Raikkonen in the early part of the opening qualifying session, Q1. Although Hamilton noticed the Alfa Romeo driver and moved off the racing line, it was too late for the Finnish driver, whose flying lap was hampered by the evasive action he took to slow down.
Raikkonen raised his middle finger at the five-time world champion as he passed him. Speaking after qualifying, he was clear on his view of the incident.
"He blocked me, as simple as that!" he said. "How can it be so difficult to move out of the way for people? And then there's radios, and for sure every team is telling which drivers are going fast or not. Let's see what happens."
After the penalty was announced, Hamilton posted to Instagram: "Totally deserved the penalty today and have no problem accepting it was a mistake on my behalf and I take full responsibility for it. It wasn't intentional.
"Anyway, tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to rise."
The verdict came over an hour after the pair visited the stewards at 1700 local time. It said: "Car 44 had just come out of the pits and was informed of the cars approaching, including car 7 [Raikkonen]. Although car 44 tried to take evasive action when he became aware of car 7 approaching on a fast lap, it was not sufficient to avoid impeding car 7, which had to then abort the lap."
There was some confusion over whether Hamilton would start fifth or fourth on the grid, with confirmation coming late in the day from F1 that it would be fourth despite Mercedes initially believing it would be fifth. The reason is because Kevin Magnussen in fifth place also has a grid penalty (of five places due to a gearbox change) and the Haas driver effectively leaves an empty space on the grid behind Hamilton. Only once all grid penalties have been applied (there are six this weekend) are the empty spaces vacated by drivers with penalties removed from the provisional grid, meaning Hamilton drops three places to fifth with his penalty and then moves up one place to take the position vacated by Magnussen.
Hamilton was also issued one penalty point on his superlicence. A driver is awarded an automatic one-race ban whenever they accumulate 12 points over a rolling 12-month period. Hamilton has no imminent concern of that -- this is the only blot on his record currently.