Two five second-time penalties imposed on championship leader Lewis Hamilton cost the 35-year old Englishman the chance to equal Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 90 Grand Prix wins.
They effectively compromised his chances of winning the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi on Sunday, and eventually he had to settle for third place behind teammate Valtteri Bottas and Mas Verstappen of Red Bull.
His problems began on Saturday, when a mix-up in qualifying almost saw him miss out on the top ten. He went on to claim pole but was condemned to begin his race on the sub-optimal softer tyre.
Hamilton was concerned about the start, because Sochi has the longest run to the first corner of any Grand Prix circuit, and it is common for the cars starting behind the race leader to benefit from his slipstream and get a tow past him into the first corner.
The six-time world champion knew that, to stop this happening, it was essential that he got a good start, and asked his team if he could practice them on the circuit before the race started. This he did, but immediately ran foul of the race stewards who deemed that he had twice made practice starts from the wrong part of the track.
No sooner had the race started with Hamilton holding off Bottas into the first corner, but they announced he had been served two five-second time penalties. These he duly served at his pit stop, but his race had been compromised by then.
To make matters worse, he was then given ten penalty points on his super licence. That meant that, if he were to pick up two more penalty points in his next four Grand Prix, he would be banned for one race. That sanction was eventually rescinded on appeal.
Mercedes protested that it was not stated in the regulations that it was illegal to practice starts in the area that Hamilton chose, and that it was unfair to penalise him during the race for something that happened before it.
An aggrieved Hamilton, meanwhile, said that FIA, motorsports governing body, did not want him to equal Schumachers record.
However, there are still eight races to go this season and, for Hamilton, it is surely a matter of when and not of, he not only equals, but surpasses the record of the German.