Nairo Quintana, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen of Team Mercedes and Team Red Bull have been fined 50,000 euros ($61,560) for an overtake move which saw Hamilton pass the Dutch driver on Turn 10 at the Japanese Grand Prix. The overtaking move has been classified as driving without due regard to safety at a motorsport tribunal.
Mercedes sported a t-shirt in its team garage at Suzuka with the words “Equal for all!” in reference to the recent controversy, as Hamilton expressed his frustration at the decision. The judges, however, did not think Lewis’s claim that the overtaking maneuver was inside its regulations was tenable.
Team manager Toto Wolff took to Twitter to take issue with the ruling. “Another decision on safety that damages the image of the sport, puts safety and protection for our drivers at risk. There are many rules and regulations in racing, and despite all the debate in the media we keep to these rules,” he wrote. “It is clear that Lewis’ move and the resulting incident had no impact on safety. We should learn to live with these decisions and not chase a penalty that damages the sport.”
As for why the FIA safety regulations did not allow the move to continue, Bernd Toring, head of the FIA’s technical department, defended his team’s decision. He explained in a statement: “Equal for all means that all drivers must, under the following conditions, respond to overtaking moves by maintaining maximum racing speed and a minimum distance of 50 meters between their cars.”
Asked about the possibility of appealing the decision, Wolff replied: “There is nothing I can do other than get on with the job. We are very disappointed. However, we will now draw lessons from the decision and apply them to the next race.”