The FIA has revealed they are revisiting the incident in which Lewis Hamilton crossed a live track without permission at last weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix amid concern the penalty was not harsh enough. The seven-times world champion collided with Mercedes teammate George Russell at the first corner at Lusail, abandoning his car in the gravel and crossing the track to return to the pit lane. Stewards later reprimanded him and fined him 50,000 euros, half of which was suspended for the rest of the season on condition he does not repeat a similar breach.
Initially, FIA stewards deemed the action by Hamilton, who had climbed out of his car after the first-lap crash, a breach of Article 26.7 b of the Formula One Sporting Regulations. This stipulates that drivers must not leave their cars on a live race circuit without stewards’ permission, even if their vehicles have been abandoned in the gravel trap. In addition, drivers must not cross a live track at any time while a race is underway and should only do so in an emergency.
Stewards emphasized the importance of this rule in their initial post-race verdict, stating that Hamilton crossed the live track while his Mercedes teammate was returning to the pack after exiting the safety car and that it could have resulted in severe injury or death for both him and the other drivers on the race circuit. The 38-year-old was apologetic and embarrassed during the subsequent stewards hearing, admitting that his actions were a grave safety breach.
However, the decision to re-examine the case will likely be more about setting a precedent and laying down more precise guidelines for penalties in the future rather than handing Hamilton an increased punishment retrospectively. Sky Sports News understands the FIA is worried that Hamilton may be encouraged to do the same in the future, with the review aiming to create a stronger deterrent by laying out more apparent penalties for those who make unsafe track crossings.
This is especially true after a distressing incident in a Karting World Championship race in Italy on the same day that Hamilton’s track crossing was being investigated. Joe Turney, who had been pitched off his kart and onto the track while battling for the lead, was struck by another competitor and suffered significant leg injuries.
The FIA’s re-examination of the Hamilton case will take place in Austin next week and will also look at other examples from the 2018 season. A greater emphasis will be placed on penalizing drivers for such actions by imposing higher fines or disqualifying them from races. In other words, it is hoped the FIA’s new guidelines will be more like those used for track-crossing breaches in the United States. Regardless of the outcome of the FIA’s latest review, the incident in Qatar will likely be remembered as one of the worst incidents of this year’s Formula One season.