Lewis Hamilton’s attempt at a form resurgence in the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship has been thwarted at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix after the Briton was handed a 5 place grid penalty on Saturday morning for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Mercedes decided the change was needed earlier in the week after discovering damage in precautionary checks from the previous round in Azerbaijan. Although Hamilton could have run with the gearbox, the team decided it was not worth taking the risk.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) July 7, 2017
Mercedes immediately ruled out speculation the damage was caused by Hamilton’s controversial coming together with Sebastian Vettel in Baku.
Because Hamilton had not used the last gearbox for six events, the change was not in conformity with Article 23.5 of Formula 1’s Sporting Regulations. Subsequently, Hamilton was officially handed a 5 place grid penalty when the light went green for the third practice session.
This means, out of no apparent fault of his own, Lewis Hamilton will not be able to take up his second row start for tomorrow’s race, instead the Briton is forced to start the Austrian Grand Prix from a lowly P8.
Hamilton was quick to point out the lasting ramifications this might have after Saturday’s qualifying session, admitting to media, “it will be tough to make progress.”
“I’ll work as hard as I can to recover,” he said.
And, that is why the penalty is specifically wrong. Hamilton knows, just as much as we do, that tomorrow’s drive is one of recovery, not victory. And, he has found himself in that situation not because of his personal actions, but more because of Mercedes’ mechanical reliability.
Should Hamilton really take the consequences of someone else’s actions? Martin Brundle seemed to agree, with a particular tweet on Saturday, saying, “Only teams should take a penalty.”
All the heated debate about driver penalties and @LewisHamilton gets 5 place grid drop for g/box gremlin 😡Only teams should take a penalty
— Martin Brundle (@MBrundleF1) July 8, 2017
Although the mentality on the FIA’s behalf is certainly, ‘drivers and mechanics win and lose together as a team’ – this ruling might have just cost Formula 1 one of its most interesting on-track battles in a long time.
It is no secret there’s a bucket-load of tension between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton after their contact in Baku. Despite Lewis’ professionalism so far this weekend regarding the issue, his inner thoughts still appear to be of distaste toward Jean Todt’s decision not to hand a further penalty to Sebastian Vettel in the FIA’s post-race investigation.
Had the gearbox change rules not been in-effect, we would have had Lewis Hamilton in P3 lining up behind Sebastian Vettel in P2 for the Austrian Grand Prix.
But, because of unreliability on behalf of Mercedes, their driver, in particular, is the one punished.
Subsequently, fans of Formula 1 might not get to witness one of the fiercest on-track battles in recent history.