Mercedes Technical Director, Paddy Lowe, has shed light on how his driver, Lewis Hamilton, came so close to receiving a reprimand in Friday practice for the 2016 German Grand Prix.
Lowe described the afternoon as “stressed”, and explained how the team were forced to compromise Lewis Hamilton’s practice programme so he wouldn’t receive a reprimand.
Although a reprimand doesn’t carry a penalty – anyone who receives three in a season will been hit with a 5 place grid drop. Lewis Hamilton is, quite worryingly, already on two reprimands for the season. The first one came after he reversed his car in the Bahrain pit lane and the second was handed out when he was judged to have not made enough of an effort to rejoin the track correctly at Turn 2 during qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix.
Lowe commented on the reprimand and track limits situation saying that “There was a little bit of stress this afternoon with race direction concerning track limits at T1.”
“We (Mercedes) compromised our programme somewhat to ensure that he (Hamilton) avoided a third [reprimand]” The concern for the third reprimand was after Lewis Hamilton was deemed to have ‘left the track at Turn 1 and continued on’ twice by race control during Friday practice
Hamilton hasn’t mentioned anything about the track limits and instead said that both sessions were “fairly straightforward” and “chilled”
Track limits have been a main talking points of Formula One since the British Grand Prix 3 weeks ago. Before qualifying for that race, the FIA issued track limits warnings for Turns 9 (Copse), 15 (Stowe) and 18, (Club). Track limits is defined as keeping all 4 wheels inside the white line, if all 4 wheels leave the track, the driver has left the track and thus the lap should be invalidated. However drivers stuck within the limits for the warned corners and instead begun to run wide at Turns 1 (Abbey) and Turn 7 (Luffield). This caused controversy between drivers, teams and fans alike because of the inconsistency of the FIA’s system.
In Hungary just last week, the FIA introduced a new pressure sensor system on Turns 4 and 11 to catch any drivers out that had all 4 wheels off the track. The system didn’t start well as the Turn 11 sensors didn’t work properly on Friday and weren’t catching all the drivers out during practice. Before qualifying, the FIA issued a confusing clampdown saying that driver times would be deleted if all 4 wheels went more than 20cm over the White line, not just simply over it. They also issued a ‘4 strikes and your out’ system for how track limits would be treated during the the race, something we are likely to see during the German Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton cannot afford to receive a 5 place grid penalty this weekend as it is most likely that the highest finishing Mercedes driver will lead the Drivers World Championship heading into the summer break. Hamilton is also likely to receive an engine penalty later in the season as he is on his last power unit. That should be enough motivation for the defending World Champion to gain the biggest lead in the Drivers Championship this weekend.