First becomes last on tonight’s Sprint grid for Lewis Hamilton after Mercedes car thrown out of qualifying results for DRS wing infringement; Max Verstappen inherits first on grid for Sprint; Hamilton then serves five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Grand Prix; Sprint at 7.30pm on Sky F1
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 13/11/21 5:48pm
Lewis Hamilton has been excluded from Sao Paulo GP qualifying and will start Saturday night’s Sprint from the back of the grid due to a rear-wing infringement on his pacesetting Mercedes car.
Following a dramatic Friday night and then Saturday day time in Brazil which saw both of F1’s title contenders under investigation, stewards confirmed that the DRS wing on Hamilton’s car had contravened the regulations and the car had been excluded from the results.
With a five-place grid penalty for an engine change already being applied for Sunday’s Grand Prix, Hamilton’s title hopes have suffered a huge blow in Brazil.
Title leader Max Verstappen inherits first place from Hamilton for the start of Saturday’s 24-lap Sprint, which offers three points to the winner and sets the grid for Sunday’s 71-lap Grand Prix.
Verstappen leads Hamilton by 19 points in the world championship with a maximum of 29 points up for grabs this weekend at Interlagos.
Verstappen was also investigated for touching Hamilton’s rear wing in parc ferme after qualifying and received a large fine of €50,000 but, crucially for his championship bid, no further sanction.
After reviewing video evidence, stewards ruled they were “fully satisfied” that Verstappen’s actions had not had any influence on the wing.
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Is this the reason Max Verstappen has been summoned to stewards in Brazil? Footage appears to show the championship leader touching the rear wing of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in parc ferme. (Credit: @frd182)
Hamilton had unexpectedly dominated Friday evening’s qualifying hour and, although knew he would drop down the grid for the main race, the Mercedes driver had put himself in position to fight for the maximum three points on offer in the sprint from first on the grid and limit the damage of the looming sanction.
But first has now become 20th and last after his car’s DRS (Drag Reduction System) rear wing was found to have contravened the regulations during qualifying.
Referring the car to the stewards, F1’s technical delegate said Hamilton’s Mercedes car did not fulfil the “maximum distance” required for DRS which with its movable flaps on the rear wing increases speed on the straights.
When DRS is activated, which raises the upper element of the wing to a flatter position to drop drag and increase straight-line speed , the gap must be between 10mm and 85mm.
A gauge used to measure the gap was found to pass through the outer section of the wing, but not the inner part.
The DRS is comprised of an upper and a lower flap, and it appears the gap between those was bigger than rules allow when deployed.
After summoning Mercedes representations, stewards adjourned the case until Saturday morning until they were in receipt of further evidence – and then spoke with the world champions again. But a verdict was finally delivered just over two hours before the F1 Sprint.
Hamilton’s prodigious pace through the opening day of the Brazilian weekend should bode well for making his way back through the field in Saturday’s short-form race, but the existing engine penalty means he’ll then drop back five positions from where he finishes for Sunday’s big race.
Should Verstappen fully capitalise on his front-running position on Saturday and Sunday, then Hamilton will require a herculean weekend performance to stay in relative touching distance of his Dutch rival heading into the season’s final three races over the following four weeks.
More to follow…