Lewis Hamilton’s 40th career victory in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix and, with it, a 53-points advantage in the drivers’ world championship was confirmed late Sunday after a two-hour stewards’ inquiry.
The defending two-time world champion had faced possible disqualification following a technical report that claimed his Mercedes team had raced on tyres that were set at a pressure that was too low and infringed the technical regulations.
But in a statement issued nearly three hours after the race, the stewards said that they had determined the pressure in the tyres concerned were at the minimum start pressure recommended by Pirelli — when they were fitted to the car.
This and the team’s adherence to safety procedures was sufficient evidence of Mercedes’ good intent to sway the decision in their favour.
“I don’t know what to say about it, it’s not my job,” said Hamilton, when faced with the claims. “Today I’ve been so happy with how the car has been in the race.
“Formula One is about running to the bare minimum. For whatever reason today, 0.3psi – if that’s what it was – 0.3psi It makes no difference to the car, particularly on one tyre. I’m sure Pirelli could prove it. That’s not the reason we won.”
It was claimed in a report by the sport’s technical delegate Jo Bauer that the left rear tyres on the Mercedes cars of both Briton Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate German Nico Rosberg were ‘below the specified minimum tyre starting pressure’ when checked on the grid before the race.
This, said members of rival teams, was enough to represent a clear breach of the sport’s strict technical regulations and should have resulted in automatic exclusion.
But after more than two hours of deliberations, during which the stewards talked to the technical delegate and representatives of both Mercedes and Pirelli, they took into consideration that Mercedes’ tyre warming blankets had been disconnected from their power source and that their tyres were “significantly below” the maximum permitted tyre blanket temperature when measured on the grid.
In addition, said the statement, “the stewards are satisfied that the team followed the currently specified procedure supervised by the tyre manufacturer for the safe operation of the tyres”.
It ended by adding that the stewards recommended that the tyre manufacturer and the FIA hold further meetings to provide clear guidance to the teams on measurement protocols.
The stewards’ decision meant that the result stands with Hamilton as winner and local hero four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel confirmed in second place for Ferrari – not promoted to winner, as many of the tifosi had hoped.
– ‘not fair’ –
Vettel had earlier said he did not welcome the tyres controversy and the way in which claims were made to take the result away from Hamilton.
“I think it’s not fair to question Lewis because he doesn’t know what’s going on, so that’s that. In principle, the tyres last a little bit longer (with lower pressures), but as I said, I don’t think it matters.
“In a lot of respect and fairness, he did a very good job today and you have to accept that.”
Vettel added: “I was second on the podium and that’s the emotions I got and I am grateful for them. I had a great car today – not good enough to win, but good enough just to finish second.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “We were exactly on the minimum pressures like we should have been, when the tyres were put on the car.
“I don’t know where the discrepancy came from, but it was not a mistake done by the team in order to gain an advantage.”
Tyre pressures were under scrutiny following the two high-speed Pirelli tyre blowouts suffered by Rosberg and Vettel at last month’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Hamilton won Sunday’s race by 25 seconds ahead of Vettel and the Williams pair of Brazilian Felipe Massa and Finn Valtteri Bottas.
His Mercedes team-mate Rosberg was challenging for second place, while running third, when his engine failed with two laps remaining. – Agence France-Presse