HOCKENHEIM, Germany -- Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica have been promoted into the points at the German Grand Prix after both Alfa Romeos were given 30-second penalties for running illegal clutch settings at the start of the race.
Alfa Romeo says it intends to appeal the decision, but if it stands it means Williams has scored its first point of the 2019 season and Hamilton has extended his lead in the championship to 41 points over teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Over an hour after the chequered flag in Germany, the stewards were alerted to start data from the cars of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi that showed the torque delivered to the rear wheels when the lights went out did not match up closely enough with the way the driver manually released the clutch.
The clutch on a Formula One car is usually operated by a small lever on the back of the steering wheel and the car's electronics, via a standard ECU, deliver that input to the clutch itself. Under the regulations, the driver's torque demand on the lever must match up with the torque delivered by the clutch almost instantaneously, with a delay of no more than 70 milliseconds permitted.
According to the stewards' report, the time that it took for the torque in the clutch to align with the torque demand from the driver on the Alfa Romeos was measured at approximately 200 and 300 milliseconds.
The regulation exists to limit the amount the electronics can aid the driver's getaway and, irrespective of whether the Alfa Romeos gained an advantage, the stewards deemed the starts to be in breach of Article 27.1 of the sporting regulations that states a driver must "drive the car alone and unaided".
"The clutch is controlled electronically via the Common ECU," the stewards' statement said. "However, the teams have the option to tune some of the controlling parameters. In order to prevent the teams from using this tuning to affect the way in which the clutch engages at the start of the race in a way that could potentially mimic traction control or other advantageous schemes, the FIA requires that the torque in the clutch matches (within specified limits) the torque demand as the driver releases the clutch. This must occur within 70 milliseconds."
Alfa Romeo explained that the clutch electronics had been calibrated incorrectly due to the conditions, but the stewards pointed out that all other cars were within the regulations.
In a statement released on Sunday night, Alfa Romeo said they would appeal the decision.
"It is extremely disappointing to have both cars penalised and pushed out of the points in what had been such an exciting race," team principal Fred Vasseur said. "The situation arose during the laps we spent behind the Safety Car ahead of the standing start: we suffered a dysfunction of the clutch that was beyond our control and we will further investigate the issue.
"We respect the FIA's process and the stewards' work, but will appeal this decision as we believe we have the grounds and evidence to have it overturned. In this regard, we will be in touch with the FIA soon."
Both drivers were given stop-go penalties for the breach in the regulations, which were converted to 30-second penalties because the race was already over. Once applied to the results, Raikkonen dropped to 12th and Giovinazzi to 13th, promoting Hamilton, who finished 11th on the road, to ninth and Kubica, who finished 12th on the road, to tenth.