Ferrari avoids penalty for Raikkonen’s unsafe pit release

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Scuderia Ferrari has escaped a post-race penalty after unsafely releasing Kimi Raikkonen from the pits during today’s Australian Grand Prix.

Raikkonen had been set for a top five finish in Melbourne, only for his mechanics to fail to attach his left-rear tire at his final pit stop.

The Finn was forced to park his car up at the side of the track shortly after exiting the pit lane on lap 41, ending Ferrari’s chances of a double-points score.

The FIA stewards confirmed at the time that they would investigate the incident following the race, with stricter penalties being proposed for unsafe releases in the pit lane this year.

However, in a statement issued following the race, it was confirmed that Ferrari would face no penalty.

“The team explained that the system used to monitor pit stops gave no indication that the car was in an unsafe condition when released and the team caused the driver to stop the car immediately once the problem was apparent from the driver and the telemetry,” the stewards said.

“The team had paid close attention to the telemetry after the actions of the team members involved in the pit stop, and further that the FIA technical delegate accepted the car was not in an unsafe condition when released, the stewards took no further action.”

Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene was disappointed with how Raikkonen’s race ended after the Finn had enjoyed a strong display before the incident.

“I am sorry for Kimi, because everyone could see how strong he was in the race,” Arrivabene said. “But at the second pit stop, there was a problem with a wheelnut on which the threads had already been crossed during the first one.

“We realized there was a possible problem and we decided to stop the car immediately, because safety is the number one priority.”

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).