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Wolff: Hamilton penalty was 'too harsh'

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Hamilton will know he should have been 'at least' second (1:47)

Nate Saunders was surprised to see Lewis Hamilton fail to secure a top-two spot in F1's season opener. (1:47)

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes the decision to penalise Lewis Hamilton five seconds at the Austrian Grand Prix for a collision with Alex Albon was not justified.

The incident was key to deciding the result of the race, with Hamilton dropping from second to fourth as a result of the penalty and Albon spinning into the gravel and dropping to the back of the field.

Albon, who was on fresher tyres, was trying to go overtake Hamilton for second place on the outside at Turn 4 and was ahead of the Mercedes when the pair made contact. The collision saw him spin into the gravel while Hamilton was able to continue in second place.

In giving their reason for the five-second penalty, which was added to Hamilton's race time at the chequered flag, the stewards said: "They negotiated the turn side by side, but car 23 [Albon] had a better exit and was in the process of passing car 44 [Hamilton]. Car 44 was drafting to the outside at the exit of Turn 4 and consequently making contact with the rear right wheel of car 23, causing car 23 to spin.

"The stewards determined that the driver of car 44 is predominantly to blame for the collision."

Wolff said he had watched the video back and, while admitting the job of the stewards was not easy, did not agree with their analysis.

"I would say from my perspective the five seconds were too harsh," he said. "We looked at the video now a couple of times and Lewis had full [steering] lock in the corner and Albon had about 40 percent of the track left to make the corner.

"It was different to [an incident on] lap one where Lewis had to back out of Albon pushing Lewis, so in my opinion it was not justified. But I understand the complexity of the job [of the stewards] and some go for you and some go against you."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner took a different view, saying Hamilton owed Albon an apology: "The pass was made, it wasn't like it was on the entry or whatever. What overtake is safe at the end of the day? I doubt Lewis was going to wave him past.

"We had to use that grip advantage and the grip is in the corners. He'd done that. It was just a misjudgement for Lewis at the end of the day, and it'd be good if he apologised for it."

Albon said he was not expecting the contact and that it was on Hamilton to avoid a collision.

"I was kind of already focused on [Valtteri] Bottas in front," he said. "It was so late, the contact.

"I think there's always a risk of overtaking on the outside but I gave as much space as I really could, I was on the edge. I thought if I give him as much space as I can give him, it was up to him if he wants to crash or not and yeah..."

It is the second time Albon and Hamilton have collided on track after contact between the two took Albon out of the Brazilian Grand Prix last year. While Hamilton apologised to Albon for the previous incident, he felt neither driver was predominantly to blame for Sunday's clash.

"It was a really unfortunate situation with Alex -- I can't believe we came together again," he said. "It really felt like a racing incident.

"But either way I'll take whatever penalty they feel I deserve and move forward."