Lewis Hamilton once escaped a penalty for cutting the first corner during the Mexican Grand Prix, while rival Max Verstappen was penalised for doing the same thing later in the race.
During the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix, Hamilton ran wide over the grass at the first corner but was not hit with a penalty and went on to win the race. Verstappen, meanwhile, received a five-second penalty for cutting the first corner on lap 68 after the stewards decided he had gained an advantage by doing so. The incident saw Verstappen lose his spot on the podium, with the Dutchman demoted from third to fourth and he was not happy with the decision.
“When I went off the track towards the end I think it was pretty similar to Lewis on lap one, corner one,” he said. “He went off and I felt he gained an advantage, I didn’t even gain an advantage, I was ahead going into braking and when I came back on the track I was the same distance in front so I don’t understand the penalty.”
He was not alone, with Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg and Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo critical of the decision not to penalise Hamilton. “I mean, if that’s not gaining an advantage, I don’t know what is,” Hulkenberg said. “Had there been a gravel trap or a wall, he would’ve been in deep trouble. So I don’t know, it seems [the stewards] bent the rule there a bit today.”
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Ricciardo, meanwhile, fumed: “How you can be leading the race, defend, lock your wheels and go off track and still stay in the lead? I think Lewis deserved a penalty; I think anyone in that position deserves a penalty. I saw Max cut the chicane trying to defend Seb.
“He got a penalty, so I don’t know what was that different between his move and Lewis’. For me, if you lock the brakes and cut the corner, it’s a mistake. You have to pay the price.”
FIA race director Charlie Whiting later explained the reasons behind the decisions, stating: “The principal difference between the two was simply that in Lewis’ case it was felt he didn’t gain any lasting advantage and in Max’s case he did. You can see that Lewis makes a small mistake at the beginning, cuts across, gains significant track advantage but then sets about giving that back immediately.
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“And you can see on the straight between turns three and four. He backs off to 80% throttle to give that advantage back because obviously he’d got a significant advantage there. And then about a minute later the Safety Car deployed and that advantage gone completely. So the stewards felt no lasting advantage.
“If Max had done the same thing on the straight between turns three and four he would certainly have lost the place. So I think that’s why the stewards felt it deserved a penalty because the driver had gained a lasting advantage. That was the fundamental difference between the two incidents in the eyes of the stewards.”