Charles Pic handed pre-race drive-through penalty

Leave a comment

After ignoring a red light during qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, Caterham’s Charles Pic has been handed a new and unprecedented penalty: a drive-through before the race has even started.

The Frenchman ignored a red light during qualifying at Suzuka today after Jean-Eric Vergne’s brake fire caused the first session to be red flagged. Despite the red light showing, Pic exited the pits five seconds after the pit lane closed, warranting the penalty.

According to the stewards: “Car 20 crossed the pit exit line at 14:17:10. The red light was at 14:17:05. It is noted this is the second consecutive event in which the driver has driven through a red light.”

Pic had ignored the red light call to visit the weighbridge in Korea, for which he received a reprimand that saw him receive a ten-place grid penalty for this weekend’s race in Japan.

However, due to penalties given to Jules Bianchi and Adrian Sutil, the Caterham driver only dropped one place on the grid to P20 after qualifying.

It would appear that the stewards believe another grid penalty would have little impact on Pic, with the stressing of the fact that this is a repeat offence suggesting that this is the biggest factor in the decision.

Therefore, Pic will have to take the drive-through within the first five laps of tomorrow’s race, with the best strategic decision appearing to be to take it on the opening lap of the race to minimize the time lost.

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
Mark Sutton - Pool/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

YOU’RE INVITED: Bubba Wallace hopes to see Lewis Hamilton at Daytona

History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.