SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - As if Lewis Hamilton did not have enough on his plate already, with two successive engine failures and Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg on a seven-race winning streak, the Formula One champion now has the stewards to worry about as well.
The Briton, 43 points behind Rosberg after four races, collected his second reprimand of the season at the Russian Grand Prix.
Three would trigger an automatic penalty on the starting grid and, with 17 races still to come, Hamilton saw trouble ahead.
“I am just aware that there is most likely going to be at least one 10 place penalty in the future because I have got one more reprimand to go,” he told reporters after fighting from 10th on the grid to second on Sunday.
”When I was in karting there was one steward, he was just there to make everyone’s weekend a bad weekend. Families would turn up and spend so much money to be there ... and he was just there to ruin people’s weekends.
“I’ve started to see signs of him.”
The triple champion collected his first reprimand in Bahrain, the second race, for reversing in the pit lane when he parked up in the wrong place after qualifying on pole.
The punishment was seen by some as excessive, given that the session was over and he was merely repositioning the car a matter of centimeters.
The second came in Sochi during the first phase of qualifying when he ran slightly wide and rejoined the track incorrectly, failing to go round a bollard.
Hamilton said that reprimand, after he had been to see stewards to argue his case, was “ridiculous”.
The Briton has not won a race since October, when he took his third title in Texas, while Rosberg has started the year with four straight victories.
The German has also had a reliable car whereas Hamilton had to start from the rear in China after a power unit failure in qualifying.
In Russia, another failure meant he missed the final phase of qualifying. Mercedes had to fly parts out overnight to ensure he did not start from the pit lane.
Drivers have five power units each to last a season, and exceeding that allocation incurs automatic penalties. The recent setbacks mean Hamilton is at a disadvantage to Rosberg there as well.
“I’m running out of engines. That’s in my mind,” he said.
Editing by Robin Pomeroy