Lewis Hamilton has been stripped of his P1 for the F1 Sprint after a technical infringement was found on his Mercedes W12 – meaning Max Verstappen will head the field for Saturday’s 100km dash event in Brazil while Hamilton starts from the back of the grid.
Hamilton took P1 for the Sprint by more than four-tenths over Red Bull rival Vertappen, with Mercedes team mate 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 from last-place on the grid, in a major blow to his championship hopes. Mercedes later announced they will not appeal the decision, saying “We want to win these World Championships on the race track”.
Meanwhile, Verstappen was handed a €50,000 fine for touching and examining Hamilton’s rear wing in Parc Ferme on Friday with the stewards giving a lengthy reasoning for the fine. However, they said in that statement issued after FP2 on Saturday: “no direct harm was caused in this case.”
They added that “it was unlikely that Verstappen’s actions caused the fault, however [Mercedes] felt that it was an open question.”
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.”
Valtteri Bottas won the Sprint in Brazil to take pole position for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, as Lewis Hamilton recovered from last place to fifth with a scintillating drive.
Bottas, starting on soft tyres from P2, began with a huge launch off the line to pry the lead off medium-shod Verstappen, who went wide in the opening lap but rescued P2 by re-passing Sainz soon afterwards. As those soft tyres began to drop off, Verstappen closed in on Bottas but ended up 1.1s off the Finn for P2 at the flag. Sainz, meanwhile, held off Sergio Perez for the final point by a second.
There was plenty of drama well before the Sao Paulo Sprint with Verstappen €50,000 out of pocket for touching and examining Hamilton’s wing in Parc Ferme – while the defending champion was disqualified from qualifying, relegating him from P1 the back of the grid. Mercedes later tweeted that they would not be appealing the decision, adding: “We want to win these World Championships on the race track.”
And so attention turned from the stewards’ office to the track on Saturday evening: 24 laps of Interlagos, with three world championship points on the line for the winner. Verstappen would lead the field, Valtteri Bottas starting from second, Sergio Perez third on medium tyres and Hamilton 20th and last on mediums for the final Sprint of 2021.
The lights went out and it was Bottas who had the advantage on his used soft tyres, Sainz storming from fifth to second on his used softs to push Verstappen out wide on Lap 1. The Dutchman – ruing a gear issue off the line – rejoined in third ahead of Perez. Further back, Hamilton had made it from last to 16th by the end of Lap 1 – taking P14 as Lap 2 began.
Would the soft tyres hang on for the next 22 laps? Bottas, with a then-two-second lead, prayed that was the case; Verstappen hoped otherwise, passing Sainz for P2 at the end of Lap 3 as Hamilton swept past Tsunoda in a similar DRS-assisted fashion for P13, taking P12 off Antonio Giovinazzi soon after. The seven-time champion was clearly on a mission, and that new Mercedes engine was certainly up to the task.
The caveat is that a five-place penalty awaits him for the Grand Prix on Sunday.