MEDIA RELEASE/McLaren Formula 1 Team - Main Photo: Supplied The McLaren Formula 1 team have…
Lewis Hamilton dominated the opening day of practice and qualifying for the Brazilian, but is came at a price. The team elected to change the internal combustion engine on his Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 for the weekend, which means a five place grid penalty will apply for the Grand Prix itself.
It may well prove to be a master stroke of strategy by Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1. Hamilton retains pole position for the Sprint Race on Saturday before dropping five places from that finishing position for the race on Sunday. The new engine has already shown its worth as the British driver lapped the circuit in a league of his own. With more overtaking opportunities than many other circuits, that starting deficit may not take too long for Hamilton to overcome. However, results from the Saturday Sprint Race will be critical.
Max Verstappen qualified in second place, which would normally see the Red Bull Honda move onto pole for the Grand Prix, but not with the Sprint. Saturday looms as the possible key to the race and whether Hamilton is able to reduce Verstappen’s 18 point championship lead, or sees the Dutchman move even further ahead.
The compacted program of practice and qualifying in a single day seemed to have little affect on the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1s, Red Bull Hondas, Ferrari and Alpha Tauri, though it did prove to be somewhat problematic for McLaren. Both Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo appeared to be off the pace in that first session, with no real data on the soft tyre to take into qualifying. The face that both drivers finished the day inside the top 10 was testament to the team’s ability to think on the run.
“It’s only an eighth and ninth but from where we were this morning we can be happy with that,” Daniel Ricciardo told McLaren Media. “We didn’t run the Soft earlier, but I felt like we didn’t have a whole lot of pace to show either. It felt better on the Soft and to get both cars in Q3 is not a bad afternoon. I know it’s towards the tail-end of the top ten, but the deficit is a lot smaller than we thought. We’ve still got to get them on track but we’re there, we’re in the fight, and we can put some pressure on them now. We’ll look to move up from here but the step we made from this morning to this evening was pretty good.”
For Lewis Hamilton, the new engine proved to be a Godsend and provided some much needed spark in his head to head with Verstappen for the 2021 World Championship crown.
“We’ve been working real hard to get this car right and it’s been tough so to finally get the car feeling like it did today, it feels great,” he told Sky Sports. “Today I got it right. I don’t know how we can go from one track they’re half a second ahead to now where obviously they’re behind.”
Post race inspections have subsequently raised some concerns, with a report from Jo Bauer, the FIA Technical Delegate, set to go before the Stewards for further investigation. The report stated;
“The uppermost rear-wing element adjustable positions were checked on car number 44 [Hamilton] 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, were not fulfilled.
“I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration.”
A worst case scenario could see Hamilton start from the rear of the grid.
FROM F1: BREAKING: Hamilton at risk of penalty over DRS technical infringement in Brazil
Lewis Hamilton could be at risk of a further penalty at this weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix after his car was referred to the stewards for a technical infringement after qualifying.
Hamilton outqualified Verstappen by over four tenths on Saturday to take P1 for Saturday’s Sprint, but he already has a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Grand Prix having taken a new Mercedes engine this weekend.
But his worries may be compounded after Jo Bauer, the FIA’s technical delegate, found something amiss with his Drag Reduction System on Friday afternoon at Interlagos.
“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,” read Bauer’s report after qualifying.
“But the requirement for the maximum of 85mm, when the DRS system is deployed and tested in accordance with TD/011-19, were not fulfilled,” he added.
Bauer has now referred the matter for the stewards who will make a judgement and hand down a penalty if necessary. A Mercedes representative has been called to see the stewards at 7.15pm local time in Brazil.
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