HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton was reprimanded by stewards on Sunday but escaped a sanction that would have stripped him of a stunning German Grand Prix victory.
The decision was announced after the Briton was summoned by Hockenheim stewards for a possible pit-lane infringement.
The Mercedes driver, who won from 14th on the grid, was suspected of having illegally crossed a line separating the entry from the track when he hurriedly changed his mind about pitting during a safety car period.
Hamilton finished 4.5 seconds ahead of Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas, and 6.7 clear of Ferrari’s third-placed Kimi Raikkonen, but a time penalty would have demoted him down the order.
Race director Charlie Whiting, speaking before the decision, told reporters he could not recall a direct precedent.
Stewards took into consideration the fact that the incident happened when the safety car was deployed and at a time of confusion on the pit wall.
They also found that “at no time was there any danger to any other competitor and the change in direction was executed in a safe way.”
The summons came more than an hour after the end of the race at Hockenheim, after the podium presentations and news conferences.
One of the stewards was Finnish former Ferrari driver Mika Salo, who collected the best result of his career when he finished second for the Italian team at Hockenheim in 1999.
Hamilton’s victory had catapulted him 17 points clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the home favorite who crashed out while leading on a wet and slippery track.
“I started turning in, then they asked me to box and then I said ‘Kimi is pitting’ and then they said ‘Stay out’ and I was already in the lane,” Hamilton told reporters after the race when asked what had happened.
“So I started turning out and trying to go over the grass and then they said ‘no, stay in!’ and I was already back on track.
“It was really confusing because they were all panicking on the pit wall, I was probably the only relaxed one,” he said. “They were shouting ‘yes, no, come in, don’t come in’. It was exciting.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis and Christian Radnedge