During the Eau Rouge-Raidillon ascent, Hamilton led the pack, guiding team-mate Russell through the series, but the seven-time champion appeared slightly off-speed and his positioning wasn’t on-point through the left-right.
At the crest of the hill, Hamilton steered off-course, floating over the marked run-off before re-merging on the track slightly ahead of Russell. Russell slowed his pace as a responsive action.
From this, an investigation was set into motion, zeroing in on Hamilton‘s actions. Both drivers were then formally requested to meet with the race stewards.
The core of this request for a meeting revolves around an alleged violation of Appendix L in the 203 FIA International Sporting Code.
The cited section states: “Drivers must use the track at all times and may not leave the track without a justifiable reason. The white lines defining the boundaries of the track are considered part of the track. However, the kerbs are not part of the track.”
Continuing, it asserts: “If a car leaves the track for any reason, the driver may rejoin. But, this can only occur if it is safe and doesn’t provide any long-term advantage. A driver is considered to have left the track if no portion of the car remains in contact with the track.”
Further, “A driver can be reported to the stewards if the driver’s actions result in debris appearing on the track.”
Hamilton concluded the qualifying round for the impending Sunday race in fourth position. However, thanks to a five-place grid sanction against Max Verstappen, who was the fastest over Charles Leclerc of Ferrari by 0.82 seconds, Hamilton will actually start from third position. On another note, Russell managed to secure the eighth fastest time in the Q3 round.
This is not the first time the Mercedes team has dealt with a close call. From memory, during the Spanish GP earlier this season in Q2, there was a near-miss when Hamilton attempted to pass Russell on the main straight. Russell’s #63 car veered towards the track’s edge causing the W14s to make brief contact, leading to minor bodywork damage and Hamilton moving to the grass.
As a consequence of these maneuvers, Russell and the team faced an official warning for the “abnormal change in direction”.