Lewis Hamilton has been stripped of his top starting position on the starting grid for the F1 Sprint after a technical infringement was found on his Mercedes car. This means championship rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull will head the field for Saturday’s 100km dash event in Brazil.
Hamilton took the first position for the Sprint by more than four-tenths over Red Bull rival Verstappen, with Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas lining up third.
But now Hamilton has been disqualified from Friday’s qualifying session due to an infringement found on the rear wing of his car. He will now have to start last, in a major blow to his championship hopes.
Earlier, Verstappen was handed a 50,000 fine for touching and examining Hamilton’s rear wing in Parc Ferme on Friday with the stewards giving lengthy reasoning for the fine. However, they said in that statement issued after FP2 on Saturday: “no direct harm was caused in this case.”
Ahead of the Sprint event, the stewards explained why they had handed the penalty to Hamilton: “In lay terms, there is a gap between the upper and lower parts of the rear wing. When the DRS is not activated this gap must be between 10mm and 15mm. The car passed this part of the test.
“When DRS is activated, which raises the upper element of the wing to a flatter position, the gap must be between 10mm and 85mm. The maximum gap is measured, in accordance with TD/011-19, by pushing an 85mm gauge against the gap with a maximum load of 10N (ten newtons.) If the gauge goes through then the car has failed the test.
“In this case, the gauge would not pass through at the inner section of the wing, but did at the outer section of the wing. This test was repeated four times with two different gauges, once being done in the presence of the Stewards and representatives of the Competitor.”
According to a report on the Formula 1 website, the reasoning set out the process in which Mercedes’ representatives Ron Meadows and Simon Cole met with FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer plus Single Seater Technical Director Nicholas Tombazis on Friday night. The hearing was delayed until 10.30am local time on Saturday for further evidence to be gathered.
This morning’s hearing included Mercedes’ Chief Designer John Owen while Bauer was absent. Owen said that the design was intended to meet regulations and blamed the deflection on “additional play either in the DRS actuator or the pivots at the end, or some combination or other fault with the mechanism, or incorrect assembly of the parts.”
The FIA agreed that the same design had passed previous tests and said they were satisfied that the design met the intent of the regulation, stressing there was no indication of “any intent to exceed the maximum dimension either by action or design.”
While agreeing that the wing failed the test because something had “gone wrong”, the FIA decided to penalise Hamilton and Mercedes, adding: “it shall be no defence to claim that no performance advantage was obtained. Therefore, the Stewards order the usual penalty for technical non-compliance of disqualification from the qualifying session.”
Furthermore, Hamilton has a five-place grid penalty, for taking a new Mercedes engine, which will apply in Sunday’s Grand Prix.