The Mercedes team feared an issue with the Russian Grand Prix stewards when it realized how far down the road Lewis Hamilton had gone to conduct his practice starts.
Mercedes gave the green light to Hamilton to carry out the routine practice starts, but the Briton did so outside of the designated area as outlined in the FIA’s pre-race notes to competitors.
Seeking a patch of tarmac with more grip, Hamilton had moved his car further away from the authorized zone, a move the Mercedes pitwall only noticed on its driver’s second practice start, conducted after passing through the pitlane.
“In some places there’s a box that they paint on the floor, and you’ve got to do it in the box,” explained Shovlin on the F1 Nation podcast.
“Then other places, it’s kind of a general area. And often, if there’s a lot of rubber, that’s not going to be representative of the grid.
“The drivers and also the engineers will want to find a bit that’s closer in terms of the grip to expect on the grid. And all it was was Lewis asked if he could go a bit further.
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“We hadn’t realised quite how far he was going to go. But it’s really just trying to find a bit of tarmac that’s more like the one that you’re going to get when you do the proper race start.”
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After spotting Hamilton’s exact position on the track, Shovlin anticipated that team and driver would find themselves in hot water with the stewards.
“We didn’t see the first one,” he said. “And when we saw the second one, we thought, ‘They’re not going to like that.’
“But we didn’t think it was dangerous. And given the event notes said that it was on the right-hand side after the pit exit we thought it might have been ambiguous enough that we would have just got a telling off.
“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 as much as whether the FIA or the stewards spotted it themselves.”
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