Max Verstappen may lose his second-place finish at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix after Formula One stewards approved Mercedes’ request to review last weekend’s controversial flashpoint with Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton won the Interlagos race following a superb comeback drive, but championship leader Verstappen escaped punishment for running his rival off the road as they duelled for first position. The stewards noted the incident before looking at available footage and decided not to launch a formal investigation.
But Hamilton’s Mercedes team have won a right of review after new footage from a forward-facing on-board camera, described as a potential “smoking gun,” was released.
A retrospective five-second time penalty for Verstappen would drop him behind Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to third in Sunday’s result – reducing his championship advantage over Hamilton from 14 to 11 points.
Red Bull motorsport adviser, Helmut Marko, says Verstappen can write off this year’s drivers’ title if Mercedes are able to maintain their Interlagos pace in the season’s final three race weekends. The Austrian claimed that there were two potential areas of illegality on Hamilton’s “rocket” of a car and added Red Bull was weighing up whether to protest about the Mercedes W12 car.
Despite being disqualified from qualifying for what stewards deemed an illegal rear wing, and also picking up a five-place grid penalty for changing his engine, the 36-year-old scythed through the field from last to fifth in Saturday’s sprint race, and then from 10th to first in Sunday’s grand prix proper.
Max Verstappen could receive a penalty.Credit:Getty Images
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said that Hamilton had enjoyed a “30kph speed advantage” on the straights, describing the seven-time world champion’s car as “unraceable”. Marko said Verstappen could forget about the title if Mercedes retained that speed advantage; or rather, if Hamilton retained that speed advantage.
“If Hamilton is also so superior this weekend in Qatar, and then in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, we can write off the title,” Marko told website F1-Insider. “I have never seen such a rocket engine from Mercedes. We couldn’t hold Hamilton on the straights, even though he was driving with a rear wing set at a similar steep angle to Monaco [producing lots of downforce which in theory should slow down the car].
“But only Hamilton has that speed, the other Mercedes drivers are no cause for concern for us.”
All three remaining circuits feature long straights that, in theory, should suit the W12’s newly discovered pace. And Marko did not rule out a formal protest.
“We are mainly concerned with two things, which we may also take up with the FIA for clarification,” he said. “But there will only be a protest if we have evidence that something is not compliant with the rules on Hamilton’s car.”
The Telegraph, London
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