Formula One title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton both faced possible sanctions on Saturday after being accused of breaking the rules ahead of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
On a day of drama in Brazil after qualifying for a Saturday sprint race that determines Sunday’s starting grid, Mercedes driver Hamilton and then Red Bull’s championship leader Verstappen caught the stewards’ attention.
Seven times world champion Hamilton dominated qualifying at the Interlagos circuit but his car then failed a technical check, with the risk of demotion to the back of the sprint field.
Stewards ordered the rear wing assembly to be impounded and the car stored overnight.
A spokesman for the governing FIA said the officials were awaiting further evidence that would not be available until morning.
A statement then delivered another bombshell by summoning Verstappen and a team representative to a meeting at 0930 local time (1230 GMT) for an alleged breach of the international sporting code.
Video footage posted by a fan on social media showed Verstappen seemingly checking with his hands the rear wings of his Red Bull and Hamilton’s Mercedes after they had parked up post-qualifying.
Article 2.5.1 of the sporting code states that “no operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed” in that secure
area unless authorised by officials.
Hamilton, 19 points adrift of Verstappen with four races remaining, already has a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race after Mercedes changed the engine in his car.
The Briton had clocked a fastest time of one minute 07.934 seconds with Verstappen 0.438 slower, a considerable margin around one of the shortest laps on the calendar.
“Let’s go,” exclaimed Hamilton over the team radio.
Three points are to be won in the sprint but Hamilton’s chances of taking them were thrown into doubt by a measurement of millimetres.
Formula One technical delegate Jo Bauer reported the uppermost rear wing adjustable positions did not comply with the rules for a maximum distance of 85mm when the drag reduction system was deployed.