Brilliant Lewis Hamilton, challenges Mercedes in remarkably dramatic day in F1

SAO PAULO, Brazil – Make no mistake. Lewis Hamilton can still beat Max Verstappen and win the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

That was the case after Hamilton was disqualified in one session, sent to the back of the net in the next, and had a five-place grid penalty still available for service in Sunday’s race, which is what remarkable.

Hamilton’s 20th to fifth place finish in Saturday’s sprint was the culmination of a Friday night and Saturday morning drama that took place in the blanket area and behind the closed doors of the room. manage.

The elimination of Hamilton will create a premise

If there is any doubt about how Mercedes feels about the way things have turned out at Interlagos since 6pm on Friday evening, team boss Toto Wolff dismissed it with his radio message to Hamilton later. Running Race.

“Great driver Lewis,” said Wolff. “F—all!”

Hamilton could have started the sprint from first on the grid – and with the way it goes, potentially dominating it – if his car hadn’t failed a surveillance test after eligible. Hamilton’s rear wing was unable to complete a post-session test, with the overtake assist system (DRS) exceeding 0.2mm compared to the 85mm allowed in the regulation.

That ultimately resulted in him being dropped from qualifying, although that decision was not made until 20 hours later the next day. The wait was made all the more interesting by Hamilton’s championship rival, championship head Verstappen, also convened with the managers on Saturday morning (which we’ll return to).

With Hamilton placed behind the net, Verstappen completed the second sprint, lifting his championship lead from 19 to 21 points to enter Sunday’s Grand prix.

It’s easy to see why Mercedes found it difficult when Hamilton was eliminated. It was not a case of intentional wrongdoing. Managers were adamant in insisting that Mercedes was not trying to break the rules to gain an advantage.

Part of the rear wing was simply broken. One side of Hamilton’s DRS degraded or failed during the session, meaning it could not then pass the subsequent qualifying tests. The same rear wing was used at the Mexican Grand Prix last week and passed all tests without issue.

In the end, the rules exist for a reason, but Mercedes remains disappointed that the FIA ​​did not show leniency in the final decision. Remarkable, The ruling said while Mercedes could not change or repair the wing after the session, they identified it in the “they will get permission to repair parts or tighten bolts if needed”.

Wolff, who suggested F1 has disrupted its own operating model by punishing Mercedes for a broken wing, said this was a contradiction in the manager’s judgment.

“Both are parc ferme situations so you might ask why during the session and not at the end of the session?” Wolff said. “Anyway, that’s what it is and we can model it in a way. Sometimes it’s judged more harshly, sometimes it’s more lenient. And that’s okay.

“We’re expected to face a situation like many races we’ve had before. For us it’s black and white, ‘you failed the test, and that’s it. ‘.

“Honestly, I don’t care anymore. This is beyond my ability, I don’t spend time thinking about decisions I can’t change. I’m looking forward to the race.”

Having a driver of Hamilton’s caliber would make overcoming such obstacles considerably easier.

Hamilton was brilliant on Saturday afternoon. If you’ve ever wanted to show a F1 novice why Hamilton has won the races and championships he has, this is a prime example.

Clever in the way he sets up his passes. Clinical in the way he does them. Skin blistering quickly.

There are still those who doubt Hamilton’s sheer talent, but they certainly have to turn a blind eye on days like these. As he has countless times, Hamilton has lived up to the motto he wears on the back of his helmet: “I still rise”.

He may have the fastest car this weekend, as he has had a lot over the past eight years, but if Formula 1 is simply a case of jumping on the fastest car and winning the races race and championship as Hamilton did, then Mercedes would have to pay someone else considerably less money to do it.

After witnessing how the No. 44 car crossed the field, Red Bull’s Christian Horner said Hamilton was the candidate for the win, even if he started from the midfield.

“With Lewis’s pace today, he could win this race tomorrow,” Horner said.

“It will be difficult to fight him at that speed.”

Verstappen also deserves praise for the way he drives, considering he has everything to lose in the situation.

That was evident in his round one. Verstappen was nearly uncombatable as Valtteri Bottas got off to a quick start over the line.

A terrifying moment for Verstappen followed when he ran wide in Turn 4 under pressure from Carlos Sainz and returned to the track by bouncing up on some grass. He dodged the damage and after getting past Sainz, he seemed content with second place.

His reward for keeping his nose clean was a two-point win over Hamilton and a first-place start in the race.

On Sunday, he will have to be careful to balance his fight to win Bottas (and Hamilton follows a different strategy) with defending his place in the championship. He would benefit from starting from the left side of the track that Bottas jumped on him from.

Verstappen has been very calm in pressure situations this season, but Interlagos is one of those places where everything seems to happen only in F1. Hamilton took the title in the penultimate corner of 2008. Verstappen himself in 2018, took the lead by overtaking Esteban Ocon.

That alone made Sunday’s race a TV show.

Look, but don’t touch!

By the time the sprint took place, it felt like an entire convention weekend had gone on for about 12 hours.

When FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer presented Hamilton’s car with alleged regulatory violations after qualifying on Friday, being disqualified from the session seemed like the most likely outcome. .

But as the investigation dragged on and the sun began to set at Interlagos, a video of Verstappen checking in and then touching Hamilton’s rear wing – the very part that managers were investigating – surfaced on social network. The video was shot by a fan in the stands facing the starting line.

On Friday night, administrators adjourned Hamilton’s hearing to Saturday morning, and then announced Verstappen had to come see them at 9:30 a.m.

Some speculated that the two were linked, that somehow Verstappen’s actions behind the car affected the integrity of the rear wing. The longer it takes to reach verdicts, the more traction the idea seems to gain, although Verstappen isn’t the first driver to have touched a rival car and the idea that he could bent a car built to withstand a very large G-force. is a difficult one to sign up for.

Mercedes feels the fan video at least leaves an open question because it happened before Hamilton’s car was inspected by Bauer’s team.

It all created an eerie atmosphere in the morning, with Hamilton and Verstappen’s verdicts still hanging in the air. With the media buzzing around the hotel suites of Mercedes and Red Bull, lined up alongside each other at the top end of the parking lot, it looks like there’s still a real seismic going on. .

Finally, no. Hamilton was sent off as scheduled – albeit much later than anticipated – and Verstappen was fined €50,000, with management suggesting he had no influence over what happened to the wing. rear of the Mercedes.

In the sentencing, Verstappen and his drivers were warned that future crashes could result in more severe punishments. After the session, Verstappen joked about the race managers can use the fine to buy a dinner and a few bottles of good wine on a Saturday night.

When Sebastian Vettel, who regularly checks his opponents’ cars closely on the track, stopped after practice, he joked with his Aston Martin team.

“I’m going to go and touch Hamilton’s wing,” he said.

When his engineer laughed and said that sounded expensive, Vettel said: “I’ll try the front wing, maybe 25,000. [Euros]”.

Verstappen’s former teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, joked that the Dutchman had won enough races this year and that his prize money would outweigh the fine.

The Brazilian Grand Prix will be live at 11:55 a.m. ET on ESPN2.


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