Lewis Hamilton incurs five place grid penalty at São Paulo GP, hands title advantage to Max Verstappen

(Motorsport) Lewis Hamilton was at his dominant best on Friday, delivering a magnificent performance in the São Paulo GP to finish in first position, starting one place higher than title rival Max Verstappen on Saturday’s 24 lap Sprint race where the winner can win a maximum of three points. However, the seven time World Champion will also incur a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Grand Prix after another engine change, which means the Mercedes driver can start no higher than sixth position.

Hamilton is currently 19 points behind Max Verstappen with four races to go and his scintillating pace on Friday can largely be attributed to his engine change, his fifth of the season so far and his second since the last four races. Drivers are only permitted to change three internal combustion engines per season without incurring a penalty, but Mercedes’ reliability issues has meant that Hamilton and Bottas are currently on their fifth and sixth engine respectively.

The last time Hamilton incurred an engine penalty was in Turkey where he had to drop 11 places and despite being fastest in qualification, the British racing driver started the race in 11th position and finished 5th. It would be interesting to see how Hamilton deals with this fresh setback and covers the ground in Brazil, especially considering he has a much faster car than his title rivals.

Such was Hamilton’s pace on Friday that he topped all three qualifying segments on Friday by a comfortable margin, his fastest time of 1:07:934 being four tenths quicker than rival Verstappen. However, the Dutch racing driver will be comforted by the fact that even if he finishes behind Hamilton in 2nd place at the Sprint race, he will still have the official pole position at the São Paulo GP.

As things stand, things could become even worse for Lewis Hamilton as his Mercedes car has been referred to stewards due to a possible DRS infringement during qualification. The hearing has been adjourned to Saturday while stewards “await further evidence that will not be available until the morning” but the F1’s technical delegate has said that Hamilton’s car did not fulfill the ‘maximum distance’ required for the Drag Reduction System.

In a statement released on Friday evening, it said “The uppermost rear wing element adjustable positions were checked on car number 44 for compliance with article 3.6.3 of the 2021 Formula One technical regulations. The requirement for the minimum distance was fulfilled. But the requirement for the maximum of 85mm, when the DRS system is deployed and tested in accordance with TD/011-19, was not fulfilled. I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration.”

If found in violation, Hamilton may possibly incur further penalties which would be a blow for the seven time World Champion and Mercedes at the business end of the season. In other results, Sergio Perez finished in fourth position behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly of the AlphaTauri finished fifth ahead of the two Ferrari’s of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Lando Norris’ McLaren will start in eighth place while Daniel Ricciardo will be ninth.

Also read: São Paulo GP Preview: Formula 1 sprint returns as Verstappen looks to widen gap against Lewis Hamilton


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