The key questions about the Hamilton closed pit penalty

The Italian Grand Prix proved to be one of the best races of the year, as Pierre Gasly took a shock maiden victory for AlphaTauri ahead of McLaren's Carlos Sainz.

The key questions about the Hamilton closed pit penalty

But the defining moment that triggered the Monza surprise was when race leader Lewis Hamilton was handed a 10-second stop-go penalty for entering a closed pitlane to change tyres.

Such a rules breach is deemed a serious offence, and it took Hamilton out of contention for the win on a day he looked set to cruise to victory.

Here we look at the background to the incident that changed the shape of the race, and explain the circumstances.

Why was the pitlane closed?

Kevin Magnussen had been battling from the back of the field, after picking up front wing damage on the opening lap that had required a replacement. However, after 17 laps he ground to a halt with a suspected power unit problem on the exit of Parabolica.

After pulling over next to the barriers on the right side of the track, the FIA felt that the best option to retrieve the car was to push it forwards down the pitlane.

So with marshals potentially exposed to cars as the moved Magnussen, F1 race director Michael Masi decided that the best option was to close the pitlane and to bring out the safety car.

Why wasn't Magnussen's car pulled back behind the barriers?

The Safety Car Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W11, and Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP20

The Safety Car Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W11, and Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP20

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

When Magnussen's car came to a halt, he had deliberately parked it by a gap in the Armco barriers. It seemed logical that the car would simply be pulled back into the hole and the matter dealt with under local yellow flags.

However, Masi has explained that the gap there is not actually big enough for cars to fit through, and is just there to allow easy access to incidents for marshals.

"There's some of openings are vehicle openings, some of them are just marshal posts," said Masi.

"The ones that have the shorter orange band effectively are only a marshal post, and the car would not fit at that area. So the only safe place to remove [Magnussen's car] was to push it down into pitlane because there was no other opening available."

What warning did Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes get?

When the pitlane closed decision was made and the safety car called out, Hamilton was already in the area of Parabolica.

As he came through the corner, two red pitlane status lights on the outside, which are the regular marshalling signal posts, were flashing with a cross. This cross is to signal to drivers that the pitlane is closed.

The location of these lights is highlighted to teams in pre-event notes issued by the FIA, so both Mercedes and Hamilton should have been aware of their location.

As Masi said: "The map indicating those is distributed to all the teams in my event notes, and is part of the pitlane diagram. Obviously it is also in what forms part of the race director's event notes, which is used for the drivers' meeting."

Read Also:

Further, there are two other warning systems in place to help teams in such circumstances. The software that teams use to monitor the track switches to show the pitlane area in red, while there is also a notification made on one of the official F1 timing pages that the pitlane is closed.

How did Hamilton and Mercedes manage to miss it?

The closure of the pitlane in such circumstances is quite a race occurrence, with the last time it happening being the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Hamilton admitted that he had not spotted the signals, as his focus was on the right hand side of the track and where the Magnussen incident was.

Pitlane entry Monza

Pitlane entry Monza

Photo by: FIA

Mercedes, in the split second in which it had to react to the safety car, had also not spotted the changes in the software system nor the Timing Page.

As Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: "We spotted that last minute back home. One of the strategists just shouted into the radio whilst we were entering the pitlane.

"There was confusion, because you prepare yourself for the pit stop to make it good. Everybody on the pitlane, including myself, we were looking at this situation, and nobody looks at page four [of timing] that the pitlane is closed.

"We can't see the signs, and this is just a sequence of events that screwed Lewis's race. Not happy, but you have to take it on the chin."

Was Hamilton allowed to speak to the stewards during the red flag?

Hamilton clearly first felt that he had not passed any signal telling him that the pitlane was closed.

So during the red flag interruption triggered by Charles Leclerc's sizeable accident, he took it upon himself to go and see the stewards and find out what had happened.

After the two light panels showing the crosses were pointed out to him, he accepted that he had made a mistake and put the matter behind him.

Some have suggested that it seemed slightly strange for Hamilton to be able to speak to the stewards in such a way, but the FIA is always open for discussions with competitors if they have issues they want to talk about.

As Masi said: "There's nothing stopping it, and thankfully we don't have too many red flags. The stewards, like everyone, have very much an open-door policy. If someone has got a question, they can ask."

Was Hamilton's 10-second stop-go penalty too harsh?

The sanction handed down to Hamilton is the most extreme in-race time penalty that can be given. Indeed, it dropped him from the race lead to well behind the back of the pack when he took it.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 pit stop for penalty

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 pit stop for penalty

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

While some have suggested that such an extreme penalty may not have been justified considering Hamilton had not gained that much from the stop, the scale of the penalty is actually mandated in the rules.

Article 28.14 of the Sporting Regulations that covers the pitlane closure states: "A penalty under Article 38.3(d) (which is a 10-second stop-go) will be imposed on any driver who, in the opinion of the stewards, entered the pitlane for any other reason whilst it was closed."

As Masi said: "The simple part is that there is no flexibility within that. The stewards had a mandatory penalty that they must apply."

The stop-go penalty was put in the rules after the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix when Daniel Ricciardo entered the closed pits and was handed just a five-second penalty.

Some teams felt that the time loss was too little, as more time could be gained from being able to change tyres at a moment when the pits were officially closed than lost through having the penalty added on at the end of a race.

Teams are also regularly consulted by the FIA over whether or not they agree with the scale of the penalties that are handed down for certain offences.

As Masi said: "All of the mandatory penalties were actually gone through one by one with all of the team sporting directors last year, to see those that we collectively felt needed to be changed, versus those that had to stay in.

"The sporting directors unanimously agreed they had to stay. All of the teams are well and truly familiar with the mandatory penalties within the sporting regulations."

shares
comments

Related video

Ferrari set to use classic livery for Mugello F1 race
Previous article

Ferrari set to use classic livery for Mugello F1 race

Next article

Italian Grand Prix driver ratings

Italian Grand Prix driver ratings
Load comments
The inevitable consequence of the Liberty F1 popularity boom Prime

The inevitable consequence of the Liberty F1 popularity boom

Sell out crowds at Formula 1 races are the norm rather than the exception these days, as grand prix racing is enjoying a massive boom under Liberty Media. But the Spanish Grand Prix highlighted numerous issues some circuits may face as demand for F1 soars

The danger for Red Bull in its Barcelona F1 team orders choice Prime

The danger for Red Bull in its Barcelona F1 team orders choice

OPINION: Red Bull walked into a team orders saga on its way to taking a Spanish Grand Prix 1-2 last weekend, where it took the lead of the 2022 Formula 1 world championships for the first time. But its decisions have added an element of risk to later races.

Formula 1
May 25, 2022
Why Mercedes' Spanish GP gains aren't as grand as they seemed Prime

Why Mercedes' Spanish GP gains aren't as grand as they seemed

Mercedes' strong showing in last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix prompted team boss Toto Wolff to say it had halved its deficit to the leaders and its Formula 1 title chances were back on after a rocky start to the 2022 campaign. But a closer inspection of the team's performance suggests its gains aren't as grand as they first appeared

Formula 1
May 24, 2022
What's next for the Green Red Bull controversy? Prime

What's next for the Green Red Bull controversy?

From the 'pink Mercedes' to the 'Green Red Bull', the Silverstone-based team has received suspicious glares from up and down the Formula 1 paddock over its car design exploits. But after being cleared by the FIA over its Spanish Grand Prix updates amid a backdrop of cries of foul play, what's next in this saga?

Formula 1
May 24, 2022
Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022 Prime

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022

In an unusually hectic Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc was denied a dominant performance by his Ferrari engine letting go which allowed Max Verstappen to pick up the pieces. But numerous flashpoints kept the race twisting and turning throughout, with one perfect score from an emerging contender

Formula 1
May 23, 2022
How Verstappen overcame his and Red Bull’s errors to win in Spain Prime

How Verstappen overcame his and Red Bull’s errors to win in Spain

Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari engine disaster offered an open goal for Max Verstappen and Red Bull to strike, but the reigning Formula 1 world champion still had to solve multiple errors and profit from a begrudged assist from team-mate Sergio Perez, which created an unexpectedly eventful Spanish Grand Prix

Formula 1
May 23, 2022
Why Red Bull can win a Spanish GP that looked perfect for Ferrari Prime

Why Red Bull can win a Spanish GP that looked perfect for Ferrari

Formula 1's return to Spain on Friday ended with Ferrari leading the way from Mercedes, while Red Bull could only manage third fastest overall courtesy of Max Verstappen. But its chances of victory are far from remote with a deeper dig into the times despite Ferrari's strong start...

Formula 1
May 20, 2022
The key aspects of Porsche and Audi's planned F1 entries Prime

The key aspects of Porsche and Audi's planned F1 entries

The VW Group’s German superpowers of sportscar racing have all but confirmed they are coming to F1 when the next set of engine rules come into force in 2026. Here's why both manufacturers are all set to take the plunge, and crucially how it might work

Formula 1
May 19, 2022