Lewis Hamilton says he is awaiting news about his pool of engines amid reports he could be facing another grid penalty in Brazil.
Reports have suggested that, as he did in Russia, the seven-time World Champion may have to take new Mercedes power-unit parts that would mean him dropping back on the grid. At Sochi it was 10 places, but this time it would be five.
Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko said a week ago he had “information” indicating a Hamilton penalty was on the cards.
Also to be factored in is that this is the last of this year’s three sprint qualifying weekends, which adds another dimension to the title battle between Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Arriving at Interlagos for round 19 of 22, Verstappen leads by 19 points having beaten Hamilton into second place at each of the last two races.
Any penalty for the Briton is only likely to be announced during FP1 at the earliest – but also worth bearing in mind is that freight delays are likely to mean teams facing a race against time to get everything prepared for the weekend’s action.
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Asked during his press conference in Sao Paulo about the prospect of an engine penalty, Hamilton told reporters: “I can’t really comment at the moment.
“As far as I’m aware my engines are fine, but I will find out later on. I don’t think the engines have even arrived this morning. We haven’t even done an engineering briefing yet.”
What Hamilton does know, however, is that engine penalty or not, he has his work cut out to overturn Verstappen’s lead over the remaining four races.
That is because he concedes Red Bull have simply had a pace advantage throughout the year.
Asked by Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz whether the wonder is how he has been able to stay in touch with Red Bull and Verstappen for so long, the 36-year-old replied: “Absolutely.
“I think people under-appreciate just how well we’ve done, considering the pace they have had since day one, since the struggles we had in testing before the season, just skimming by and winning that first race (in Bahrain).
“Then we had a couple of races (Portugal and Spain) where I just don’t think they optimised and probably made more mistakes than they would have liked to.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job, but at the end of the day we’ve not been as fast as them most of the time.”
Even perfection from Hamilton won't be enough
Max Verstappen's flawless victories in the last two races have won me over Lewis Hamilton.