At the final practice session of the Formula One 2022 season Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri hit a kerb and lost the front wheel brow protector which brought out the red flag. Lewis Hamilton was on a flying lap and on the run down to the hairpin he passed the slow running car of Kevin Magnussen after the red flag was displayed.
The cars have lights on the steering wheel which immediately light up when race control deploy caution flags. Further the onboard camera demonstrates the red light at the side of the circuit was clearly showing as Hamilton flew past the McLaren car.
Gasly punished for red flag breach
Red flags mean race control has immediately cancelled the on track session and the cars must drive above to a maximum time and return to the pits. This in effect reduces the speed of the cars for safety reasons.
Sky’s F1 commentary team at the time agreed there were mitigating circumstances but the stewards this season have applied the letter of the law to such infringements.
Pierre Gasly was penalised in Japan for breaching article 37.6 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, which states drivers must “stay above the minimum time set by the FIA ECU at least once in each marshalling sector” when a session is red-flagged.
Gasly’s breach was due to a technical reason yet the Alpha tour driver received a reprimand and penalty points on his license.
Hamilton in breach but not punished
However, following a meeting with Hamilton and Mercedes the stewards issued what to some appears a strange decision given their ‘letter of the law’ approach for transgressions during the 2022 season.
“There is no dispute that car 44 [Hamilton] passed car 20 [Magnussen] directly after the track was placed in a red flag condition,” the stewards statement begins.
“The driver of car 44 stated that he was on a fast lap, he saw the red light, immediately completely lifted the throttle and applied the brakes, whilst checking his mirrors for cars following in close proximity. He stated that he had, in doing so, gone past car 20.”
The stewards studied the telemetry which showed Hamilton lifted his throttle entirely and “applied firm braking pressure” after the red light was displayed.
Closing speed considered
Lewis was travelling at 288kph, more than twice as fast as Magnussen, whose speed was 126kph.
“It is our conclusion that the driver of car 44 took every reasonable action to comply with the regulations in that he immediately reduced speed in a safe manner at the earliest opportunity upon the first indication of the red light,” said the stewards.
Although Hamilton had “technically” committed a breach of article 188.8.131.52 (b) of Appendix H of the International Sporting Code, the stewards ruled “he could not avoid overtaking car 20 in this case and therefore… determine to apply no penalty.”
the stewards appear to have considered a precedent in relation to the 2021 Dutch Grand Prix (Max Verstappen), where no action was taken against the driver under similar but not identical circumstances.
Lewis also appeared to avoid breaching there rule Gasly fell foul of in Japan. The stewards noted Lewis did not breach article 37.6 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, which states drivers must “stay above the minimum time set by the FIA ECU at least once in each marshalling sector” when a session is red-flagged.
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A fascinating insight into how Race Control and referees deal with decisions 👇 pic.twitter.com/EBs22XmjCa
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) November 19, 2022