There is a lot of talk on the internet at the moment as to why Lewis Hamilton didn't receive a penalty when he cut the corner on the opening lap, yet Max Verstappen lost his podium finish for doing the same thing just three laps from the end of the race. We actually thought the same thing at the time, however, there is a very reasonable explanation for the situation.
Firstly, on lap one the race stewards tend to be a little bit more lenient toward drivers not executing turn one at any venue as all 22 drivers are vying for position. However, this was not the reason Hamilton was given a free pass.
It was revealed by the stewards of the course to motorsport.com that telemetry from Hamilton's Mercedes actually showed that the reigning world champion slowed after cutting the corner to ensure that he wasn't deemed as taking an unfair advantage over the rest of the field due to his off track excursion.
At the time, even Sky TV commentator and former F1 racer, Martin Brundle said that stewards take a different look at incidents on lap one compared to the same incident on say lap 50 and he was very right. In Verstappen's case, the Red Bull managed to keep its third position from an attacking Ferrari by cutting across the grass with just three laps to go, and that is why he was penalized for it.
Unfortunately, Max Verstappen can't see the difference between the two situations….
“When I went off the track towards the end I think it was pretty similar to Lewis on lap one, corner one,” he said after the race. “He went off and I felt he gained an advantage, I didn't even gain an advantage, I was ahead going into braking and when I came back on the track I was the same distance in front so I don't understand the penalty.”
As for Lewis Hamilton himself, he believes a flat spotted front tyre from his little excursion was punishment enough….
“Well, I had a completely flat-spotted tyre so that definitely wasn't an advantage but I think I was still in the lead going in so I was in the lead coming out, so that's not (gaining an advantage)... I don't believe so.”