Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has explained the “weird sequence of events” that led to the team’s error pitting Lewis Hamilton while the pitlane was closed.
Hamilton had built a 10 second margin over the field when the safety was delayed due to Kevin Magnussen’s stranded Haas near the pit entry.
Mercedes reacted to the situation by boxing Hamilton for fresh tyres, but failed to spot the signal boards that said the pitlane had been closed.
Following an investigation by race control, Hamilton received a 10-second stop/go penalty, which he served after the race restart due to a red-flag stoppage, leaving him over 25 second adrift of the pack.
Hamilton charged his way back through the field to recover to seventh place, whilst also picking up a point for fastest lap.
Speaking after the race, Wolff revealed Mercedes was caught out by its misunderstanding with the red light at pit entry that “screwed” Hamilton’s Italian Grand Prix.
“It was a weird sequence of events that maybe we could have spotted earlier,” Wolff said.
“The decisions that were taken were highly unusual, but they were absolutely within the rules.
“One of the Haas [cars] was parked to the right, near the entry, on the inside of Parabolica, and there was a single yellow. Eleven seconds later, a safety car was deployed.
“Once the safety car was deployed, they put the entry to the pit lane on red, but it wasn’t exactly red, it was two yellow crosses on the outside.
“One of the strategists just shouted into the radio whilst we were entering the pit lane. There was confusion.
“We can’t see the signs, and this is just a sequence of events that screwed Lewis’s race. Not happy, but you have to take it on the chin.”
Wolff felt it was an “unusual decision” to close the pitlane, adding the team could only have spotted the yellow crosses by looking at the fourth page on the FIA’s timing information.
“From the pit wall, you can’t see these yellow crosses, and if the driver doesn’t spot them, which I believe is absolutely the truth, the only way you can see that the pitlane was closed was on page four of the FIA communications system,” Wolff said.
“Nobody looks at that page when the safety car is deployed, the driver is about to come into the pits. Everything is concentrated around the pit stop.
“Unlucky, I would say, and a very unusual decision to close the pitlane.”
Hamilton later accepted responsibility for failing to notice the boards, saying he felt “grateful” his nearest championship rivals didn’t take advantage of his mistake.
“Honestly I didn’t see those boards, so I take responsibility for that,” Hamilton said, as quoted by Motorsport.com.
“[It is] something I will learn from. To get seventh and still get the fastest lap, that’s still some good points considering I definitely didn’t think that was possible from 26 seconds behind the last car.
“I’ll definitely take it, and grateful obviously Max [Verstappen] didn’t score any points. So not a huge loss today.”