FIA Race Director Michael Masi has explained why Lewis Hamilton had to be punished after the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Brit was embroiled in a fierce race for victory against title rival Max Verstappen, and the Mercedes man eventually came out on top after an action-packed weekend of controversy.
After starting 10th on the grid, Hamilton fought back to overtake Verstappen in the closing stages of the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Since the 36-year-old claimed victory, the main talking point has been a lap-48 incident which saw both Hamilton and Verstappen run wide at Turn 4.
New footage emerged on Tuesday which prompted Mercedes to launch an appeal against the Stewards’ decision, which saw Verstappen escape without punishment.
A late pass thanks to Mercedes’ tremendous straight-line speed was enough for Hamilton to leave victorious, but his actions after the race brought more punishment on himself.
In reaching for the Brazilian flag, on-board footage showed Hamilton’s seat-belt unfastened which contravenes FIA regulations. He was handed a €5,000 fine (£4,265) as a result.
And Masi explained to RacingNews365.com: “Everyone knows that rule, it’s been discussed before.
“I’m well aware that it was discussed in Charlie’s [Whiting, Masi’s predecessor] time, drivers were reminded that, obviously, on cooldown laps, there’s no problem loosening their belts, but they need to remain fully attached.
“It is a safety item. I think the stewards have made it quite clear in their decision that it’s not about stopping celebrations at all.
When Hamilton passed Verstappen in the closing stages, an emotional Wolff angrily pointed at the camera which he claims was “a friendly hello to the clerk of the course”.
Ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix this coming weekend, the race for Hamilton’s record-breaking eighth world championship is certainly hotting up, while Verstappen eyes up his first crown.
The Constructors’ Championship also hangs in the balance, with Red Bull perilously close to ending Mercedes’ years-long run of dominance.