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Mercedes suspect rival teams might have alerted FIA to Hamilton practice start breach

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It’s not often you get a definitive moment in a Grand Prix before the lights have gone out, but that was the case in Russia, with Lewis Hamilton’s now infamous practice starts breach. Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, the Silver Arrows’ Chief Race Engineer Andrew Shovlin has explained the team’s role in the contentious incident, and how they weren’t clear who was first to spot the infringement…

First up, Shovlin explained why Hamilton had not just stopped where everyone else did.

“Some places there’s a box that they paint on the floor and you’ve got to do it [the practice start] in the box; other places it’s kind of a general area,” he said.

READ MORE: FIA refute Hamilton’s ‘they are trying to stop me’ suggestion after Russia penalties

“Often if there’s a lot of rubber [on the ground] it’s not going to be representative of the grip. 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 what happened was Lewis asked if he could go a bit further [along the pit exit] - 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 is more like the one you are going to get when you do a proper race start.”

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Shovlin added that Hamilton’s positioning had only become apparent to Mercedes on his second practice start, at which point they realised immediately they might be in trouble.

“We didn’t see the first one, when we saw the second one we thought ‘they’re not going to like that’,” he explained.

“We didn’t think it was dangerous and given that the event notes said it was on the right-hand side after the pit exit we thought it might have been ambiguous enough that we would have… I mean 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. I don’t know.”

You can listen to the full episode of F1 Nation, which contains a full discussion on the Russian Grand Prix, as well as an interview with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, in the player above. Alternatively you can listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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