SportFormula 1

Hamilton Given Five-Place Grid Penalty, Title Hopes Threatened

Lewis Hamilton has been given a five-place penalty for Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix for exceeding the permitted number of engine parts this season.

Hamilton was the fastest for Mercedes in the first practice, 0.367 seconds ahead of title rival Max Verstappen in Red Bull.

Hamilton trails Verstappen by 19 points before this weekend’s Brazilian race, with a maximum of 107 points available over the remaining four races.

But the penalty is a huge blow to Hamilton’s hopes to win the championship.

Mercedes have taken a fifth internal combustion engine at Interlagos, when only three are permitted for the season which triggers an automatic five-place penalty.

The grid drop will apply in Sunday’s Grand Prix, not the ‘sprint’ qualifying race that will take place on Saturday to set the grid for the main race.

This is the third and final running of the new ‘sprint’ format this year. Friday qualifying sets positions for the ‘sprint’ in Sao Paulo, which is scheduled for Saturday.

That gives Hamilton the opportunity to try to bank the three points available for victory in the ‘sprint’, before fighting back and trying to overcome the penalty in the main event.

Hamilton spent much of the only practice session before Friday’s qualifying complaining about the behavior of his Mercedes stating that the front of the car was bouncing.

But after trailing Verstappen on his first lap on soft tyres, Hamilton went past the Red Bull on his second and then stretched further ahead on a third lap on the same set of tyres.

Verstappen did only one flying lap on the soft tyres, so their times may not be directly comparable.

Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez was third fastest, ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes partner Valtteri Bottas.