Formula One’s race director, Michael Masi, has countered Lewis Hamilton’s suggestions that the sport’s governing body, the FIA, is attempting to hold him back.
Hamilton’s chances of victory at Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix were dealt a critical blow when he was given two five-second penalties for completing practice starts away from the designated area ahead of the race. Hamilton described the penalties as “ridiculous” and when asked if they were too harsh, said: “Of course it is, and it is to be expected. They are trying to stop me.”
Asked to clarify his remarks at a press conference after the race, Hamilton said he felt as though his Mercedes team had been subject to extra scrutiny because of its success this year.
“Whenever a team is at the front, obviously they are going to get a lot of scrutiny,” he said. “Everything we have on our car is being checked and triple checked and triple checked. They are changing rules, such as the engine regs, lots of lots of things to get in the way to keep the racing exciting, I assume.
“I don’t know if the rules — in terms of what happened today — was anything to do with it but naturally that’s how it feels, naturally it feels like you we’re fighting uphill but it’s OK. It’s not like I haven’t faced adversity before, so we just keep our heads down and keep fighting and keep trying to do a better job and be cleaner and squeaky clean.”
Masi, who is not a member of the stewards panel that penalised Hamilton but is an employee of the FIA, countered Hamilton’s remarks by saying Sunday’s penalty was simply case of a driver breaking a rule and being penalised.
“No I don’t [agree with Hamilton] and from my perspective it’s very simple that if Lewis wants to raise something — as I have said to him before and said to all the drivers numerous times — the door is always open,” he said. “I’m more than happy to discuss anything, but I think from an FIA perspective we are there as a sporting regulator to administer the regulations.
“We have the stewards as an independent judiciary to adjudicate those, and therefore there was an infringement and it doesn’t matter if it was Lewis Hamilton or any one of the other 19 drivers, if a breach has occurred of the regulations they will consider it on its merits.
“And also, further to that, I would say adjudicate it equitably and fairly in the circumstances, taking all of the key elements into account.”
Asked after the race if he would raise his concerns with Masi and the FIA, Hamilton said: “I haven’t decided, but at the moment I’m looking forward to getting home.”