São Paulo might be the site of the most decisive moment in this season’s Formula One World Championship. While a number of championships have been decided on track at Interlagos over the years, the precise location will likely be the race stewards’ office this time around. The location of where Lewis Hamilton was disqualified from qualifying.
Hamilton was summoned to the stewards’ office after Friday’s qualifying session. Hamilton was able to set a lap time four-tenths of a second faster than the championship leader Max Verstappen to secure the first starting position in today’s sprint qualifying session.
Hamilton’s Mercedes had a noticeable straight line speed advantage over Verstappen’s Red Bull. While the new internal combustion engine fitted to his Mercedes could be a logical explanation for the advantage, Hamilton was summoned to the stewards’ office because his Mercedes failed to pass scrutineering. The drag reduction system fitted to the car’s rear wing opened wider than the mandated 85 millimeters (3.35 inches) as specified in Formula One’s technical regulations. The race stewards were unable to reach a decision on Friday. They also requested the removal of the rear wing assembly in question to be impounded and held overnight.
It was rumored that a decision was not made because there needed to be further investigations over mitigating circumstances. One of those rumored mitigating circumstances was that Max Verstappen had physically touched the Mercedes rear wing after the qualifying session. A rumor that was quickly confirmed when the stewards summoned Max Verstappen to report to them this morning for an alleged violation of Article 2.5.1 of the FIA International Sporting Code. The cited portion of the code states that only assigned personnel may enter parc fermé and only those personnel may interact with the cars in parc fermé.
After Verstappen and Red Bull left stewards’ office, representatives from Mercedes spent almost an hour with the stewards. The stewards later decided with the agreement of Mercedes that Verstappen was ”unlikely that Verstappen’s actions caused the fault.” However, Verstappen was fined 50,000 euro for his actions.
Mercedes would understandably face much harsher consequences for its actions. Lewis Hamilton was disqualified from qualifying and will start today’s sprint race from the back of the field. FIA stewards felt it was “not a systemic breach” as in that Mercedes-AMG Petronas did not intentionally attempt to subvert the regulations, its car was just simply not in compliance with the regulations after qualifying.