‘Mercedes claim Max damaged Hamilton’s rear wing’

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen speaking with Helmut Marko. Mexico November 2021

Max Verstappen speaking with Helmut Marko in the Red Bull garage Mexico November 2021

Mercedes reportedly blamed Max Verstappen for Lewis Hamilton’s rear wing issues, with Helmut Marko saying that’s their defence.

Both Verstappen and Hamilton visited the Sao Paulo Grand Prix stewards on Saturday morning, their separate hearings relating to troubles in Friday’s qualifying.

That session saw Hamilton take pole position by 0.4s ahead of Verstappen, the Dutchman parking his RB16B after qualifying and going over to have a look at Hamilton’s rear wing.

And then he touched it.

That is not allowed according to Article 2.5.1 of the International Sporting Code, which states that ‘inside the Parc Ferme, only the officials assigned may enter. No operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorised by the same officials or by the applicable regulations’.

Verstappen therefore was called to see the stewards on Saturday morning and was handed a €50k fine shortly after the end of the second and final practice session.

What made it an even bigger issue was that the FIA were looking into that rear wing that he touched.

According to FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer, Hamilton’s rear wing and its DRS does not comply with the regulations in Article 3.6.3 of F1’s Technical Regulations.

That regulation reads that the gap between the two flaps when the wing is in its open position the gap ‘must lie between 10mm and 15mm’.

Bauer said in his note to the stewards that the rules were “not fulfilled” by Hamilton’s wing.

That meant a visit to the stewards on Friday night for Mercedes, with the hearing adjourned until 10:30am on Saturday.

Mercedes, Marko said, then went into Saturday’s hearing blaming Verstappen for Hamilton’s wing issues.

Before his driver was fined, the Red Bull advisor told F1-Insider.com: “The unbelievable thing is that Mercedes is now claiming that Max damaged Hamilton’s rear wing with his fingers.”

But as former F1 driver turned pundit Karun Chandhok pointed out, that is next to impossible.

“For those asking if Max could have manipulated the wing,” he said on Twitter. “Let’s all be clear that the wings are designed to sustain hundreds of kilos of load without breaking.

“Andre the giant could sit on it! As fit and strong as Max is, I doubt he managed to bend the wing.”

Hamilton’s punishment proved to be far more severe than his title rival’s, with the Brit disqualified from qualifying, meaning his P1 start for the sprint became a back-of-the-field one.