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Formula 1

Sochi practice start note tweaked after Hamilton controversy

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
1 min read

The instructions for where Formula 1 drivers can perform practice starts at the Russian Grand Prix have been tweaked, after Lewis Hamilton’s controversial penalties in the 2020 race.

Hamilton received a pair of five-second time penalties at Sochi for conducting out-of-position practice starts prior to the grand prix, when he went past the designated area at the pitlane exit and stopped at the pit exit road on the right-hand side.

The world champion and Mercedes argued that the FIA’s instructions to stop “on the right-hand side after the pit exit lights” were vague but the stewards considered it a clear infringement and race director Michael Masi said the instructions were clear enough.

At the next race at the Nurburgring the pre-event notes from Masi were much more specific regarding practice start instructions.

Now, on F1’s return to Russia, the instructions at Sochi have been altered and are now less ambiguous.

Drivers have been instructed that practice starts can only be carried out “immediately” after the pit exit lights, essentially reiterating it is the small area on the right-hand side before the pitlane exit road rather than implying it is allowed anywhere after the lights.

Another line has been added to the instructions stating that “any car who wishes to perform a practice start must form up in a line and leave in the order they got there unless another car is unduly delayed”.

That will underline the need for drivers to respect the designated practice start area, rather than move into an alternative place, and also prevent any queue-jumping.

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