The 2020 Italian Grand Prix, at the Monza International Circuit, was one of the most entertaining of the entire season. We all know the result, Pierre Gasly with his Alpha Tauri achieved the victory after an intense battle against Carlos Sainz's McLaren, who finished in second position with Lance Stroll's Racing Point on the last step of the podium. However, there was a key moment during the race, we are talking about a stop-and-go penalty to Lewis Hamilton for entering the pitlane when it was closed. Garry Connelly, FIA steward, has made some statements about this controversial penalty to the now seven-time world champion.
First, we have to remember that Kevin Magnussen's Haas had stopped between turn 11 (parabolic) and the pitlane, as a result of this, race direction decided to close this last one so that the marshals could remove the car from the track without the need to take any risks, in addition to the security car being deployed. Lewis Hamilton was called to the pits to make a pit-stop, however, neither the British driver nor Mercedes were able to realize that, on orders from the FIA, the pitlane was closed. With this action as a trigger, the FIA decided to impose a stop-and-go penalty on him (in the race, the driver has to enter the pitlane, stop in his box for 5 seconds and rejoin the competition). Subsequently, Charles Leclerc's Ferrari suffered a tremendous accident on the parabolic, causing a red flag and during this period without a race, Lewis Hamilton decided to go see the stewards to clarify the penalized situation.
Being a sports steward of the FIA is one of the most difficult jobs that exist in Formula 1 since absolutely all the circumstances have to be taken into account at the time of an incident, however, there are actions that have to be penalized in a particular way. Regarding this, Garry Connelly, who served as steward during that race, has admitted that they did not want to impose that precise penalty, but those are written in the sports regulations.
“Lewis Hamilton entered the pitlane once we clearly established that the pitlane was closed, that the warning lights, the light panels, two of them at the entrance to the pitlane, clearly showed the cross to show that the pitlane was closed, then we made reference to the corresponding regulation. " Connelly admitted in a virtual conference call with other stewards, where he used the Monza incident as an example so that fans can understand what they have to do.
"We had no choice, and this is something most of us don't like, we don't like mandatory penalties."
“In fact, almost all the FIA stewards, chairmen in F1 and most of the other F1 stewards do not agree with the mandatory penalties, but they are there, mainly at the request of the teams. And this [infraction] required a penalty stop for Lewis. " Garry Connelly commented.
Regarding the Mercedes driver's visit with the stewards during the red flag period, Connelly admitted that Hamilton was quite understandable with them and the penalty.
“Lewis was extremely polite. And he just said, 'Guys, can you tell me why you have penalized me? And we said, "Yes, because you entered the pitlane when it was closed." He said, 'Can you show me?'
“We showed him the replay of the video. We show it from the camera on board it. And there, right in front of him, was the warning light for the first panel, and then again, the second panel. "
"And he said, 'Oh, it's okay. I accept it, but why such a severe penalty? We explained to him, 'Unfortunately Lewis, it is a mandatory penalty, and we have no choice but to impose this penalty on you.' He was not absolutely thrilled with this, Lewis accepted it and was extremely courteous, as I have always found, and walked out of the room."
“I think he's a perfect example, no matter how painful the decision is, it was accepted by Lewis and it was accepted by his team. So it shows that if you can explain something, you can make a difficult decision acceptable to those to whom it applies and to the general public. " This is how he ended his conversation about this controversial penalty.
As we know, Lewis Hamilton has always been characterized by his good behaviour on the track on most occasions, so an incident like this could have been discussed post-race, however, and as Garry commented, it was a penalty that needed to be imposed that way.