Stewards acted fairly against Hamilton: FIA

Sochi (Russia) (AFP) –


Race director Michael Masi has hit back at Lewis Hamilton’s claim that Formula One’s rulers are trying to stop him winning races -- and said Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix stewards acted fairly by penalising him.

Hamilton, who led from pole position, was hit with two five-second penalties for pre-race misdemeanours that wrecked his bid for a record-equalling 91st Grand Prix win.

Masi, who took over as the top official at races representing the International Motoring Federation (FIA) in the aftermath of Charlie Whiting’s sudden death in Melbourne last year, flatly rejected Hamilton’s post-race comments.

"I think from an FIA perspective we are there as a sporting regulator to administer the regulations," the Australian said late Sunday.

"We have the stewards as an independent judiciary to adjudicate those.

"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 they will consider it on its merits.

"Further to that, I would say they adjudicate it equitably and fairly in the circumstances, taking all of the key elements into account."

Hamilton was penalised for performing irregular pre-race practice starts in the pit lane exit road and for inconsistent speed on the reconnaissance lap.

The sanctions, widely seen as too severe, effectively ended his hopes of winning in Sochi and levelling with Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix victories.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff and described it as "far-fetched" but the team's track engineering director Andy Shovlin admitted he was not surprised

"We didn't see the first one (start) and when we saw the second one, we thought 'they're not going to like that', but we didn't think it was dangerous," Shovlin said.

"When we saw the car position, it wasn't a complete surprise that they didn't like it and, no doubt, there may have been teams who flagged it up -- as much as whether the FIA or the stewards spotted it themselves."

- 'Door always open' -

Hamilton finished a furious third behind Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull's Max Verstappen, his lead in the drivers' title race trimmed from 55 to 44 points by the Finn.

Masi ruled out any bias against Hamilton and said his door "is always open", a phrase he used after a similar spat at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza where the Briton received another penalty that prevented him winning.

"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 of the drivers numerous times –- the door is always open," said Masi.

"I'm more than happy to discuss anything."

Hamilton was also given two penalty points on his racing license, but this was cancelled after a review. Instead, Mercedes were fined 25,000 euros ($29,000) for each infringement.