This time last season, the Formula One drivers’ title was not exactly poised on a knife edge. Lewis Hamilton had won just one race since round 10 in Silverstone and trailed Max Verstappen by 19 points with four races to go. Mercedes decided to fit Hamilton’s W12 car with a new power unit they admitted was for “performance reasons” only in an attempt to boos their driver’s hopes of an 8th F1 title.
The Brazilian Interlagos circuit is at an altitude of 700m so the effect of a new power unit which copes better with the rarified air is a significant advantage.
Hamilton subsequently monstered qualifying and was almost 0.4s quicker than Verstappen in P2, though a 5 place grid drop awaited Lewis for the Sprint race to come due to his new power unit.
FIA declares Mercedes wing ‘illegal’
Yet things did not go to plan for the British driver because after the qualifying session, Hamilton was referred to the stewards for an alleged technical infringement. The technical delegate’s report stated that Hamilton’s drag reduction system opening slot was larger than the permitted 85 mm.
The rear wing assembly of Hamilton’s car was removed and impounded pending investigations. He was later disqualified from qualifying, forcing him to start at the back of the grid for the sprint qualifying.
Hamilton tore through the field over the 24 lap Saturday Sprint Race finishing P5 which set his starting position for the race on Sunday.
The one consolation for Lewis was his team mate jumped Verstappen into the first corner and hung on for the win and the 3 points on offer. Verstappen was second and awarded two points which set him 21 points ahead of Hamilton I the drivers’ championship.
Hamilton with his new engine easily won the main event on Sunday by 10.5 seconds from max Verstappen and in the process clawed back 7 crucial points from arch rival for the 2021 drivers’ title.
Verstappen examines Mercedes F1 car wing
However, there was yet another F1 row brewing over Max Verstappen’s actions following qualifying. He was referred to the stewards for an alleged violation of article 2.5.1 of the FIA International Sporting Code, after he appeared to have touched Hamilton’s car during parc ferme.
Max admitted the offence and later commented, “Well I was clearly looking at the wing!” he said.
“So, yeah, you can see on the video what I did exactly.
“I was just looking at how much the rear wing was flexing at that point …
“Of course, there are still things [for the stewards] to look into because at a certain speed it seems like the wing is flexing [down] and, of course, at the beginning of the season we all had to change the rear wing a bit because of the back off [of the wing under aerodynamic load].
“But it seems like something is still backing off over there. So that’s why I went and had a look.”
FIA fine Verstappen €50,000
Verstappen received a €50,000 fine, though a row brewed over whether the stewards would have penalised Hamilton had Verstappen not touched his car and potentially discovered the engineering trick used by the team to flex the wing when open using the DRS.
“Touch-gate” was revisited this year at the Spanish GP in Barcelona. A fan photo did the social media rounds appearing to show Lewis touching the rear wing of Max Verstappen’s RB18.
Hamilton was on his way to the circuit’s medical centre after the race to provide a sample for a doping test, by which time the cars had been lined up in parc ferme.
There was no subsequent action from the stewards following the appearance of a video appearing to show as Lewis squeezed behind Max’s car there was space between him and the body work at all times.
Today Red Bull Racing posted a tweet reviving the spectre of ‘touch-gate’ with a picture of Verstappen apparently touching the car’s rear wing.
Heading to Brazil… remember, look but no touch ⚠️ If you know, you know 👀 pic.twitter.com/HjGVwhpXT0
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) November 9, 2022
Hopes for Mercedes F1 win at Interlagos
Verstappen was light hearted at the time over his fine joking, “It’s quite a big fine, so I hope they have a nice dinner and a lot of wine — I hope good, expensive wine, that would be nice,”
“They can invite me for dinner as well, I will pay for that dinner too.”
As the hopes fade for a Mercedes win this season they could again benefit from the altitude of the Interlagos circuit given last time out in Mexico the altitude there and rarified air made the draggy W13 slip through the air more easily. That said The Mexco City GP is held at over 2000m altitude whereas Interlagos is at just 700m.