Hamilton’s wing investigation threatens title defense

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2021 Turkish Grand Prix, Friday - Steve Etherington

There’s no doubt a fresh engine is a good thing and in the case of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, it seemed to have provided quite a bit more shove as he dominated qualifying on Friday afternoon.

The challenge the team face is that the FIA’s Jo Bauer did a post-session check and found the DRS system to not be in compliance. The FIA released a statement from Bauer said:

“The uppermost rear wing element adjustable positions were checked on car number 44 for compliance with Article 3.6.3 of the 2021 Formula One Technical Regulations,” the statement reads.

“The requirement for the minimum distance was fulfilled. But the requirement for the maximum of 85mm, when the DRS system is deployed and tested in accordance with TD/011-19, [was] not fulfilled.

“I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration.”

There was a meeting that Mercedes attended on Friday night but no decision was reached with a further statement that the stewards were waiting on further evidence that would not be available until this morning. The stewards sent a bulletin to Bauer asking:

“to supervise the removal of the rear wing assembly of Car 44, and to impound this part under seal.”

It added: “Further, the Technical Delegate is to supervise the transition of Car 44 into overnight conditions, permitting only those actions needed to store the car.”

There was fan video that showed Max Verstappen inspecting Lewis’s rear wing after qualifying and this led to folks, including the media, speculating that Max tampered with the rear wing and that’s why it isn’t in compliance.

If you honestly believe that a person, in that short amount of time and on video without any tools or wrenches, could alter the rear wing of an F1 car, you may need to take a deeper look at how these things are built and the loads these wings withstand. Fondling a rear wing with your hand would be very suspect as an agent of change.

I’ve seen drivers touch other cars, their wheels and other components before. I can’t say it’s been prolific but scrutinizing another car is typical. Schumacher used to do this relentlessly. Partly to learn and, let’s be honest, partly to draw attention to a particular component your team has suspicions about.

The team are adamant that the wing is the same as teammate Valtteri Bottas’s wing and that passed inspection. It’s difficult to know if there was anything done to purposefully flout the regulations. Determining intent is a difficult matter but there is certainly room of wear and tear, flexing deformation or other kinds of things that I can think, from a non-engineer mind, that might explain it?

On the other hand, trying to use common sense without knowing the details of how this wing is built and with what materials is all conjecture on my part. I would imagine I could lounge on top of this wing without it having much of an impact such is the engineering genius behind them.

We will see what happens but the wing is either compliant or it’s not. Max fondling it for a a second or two isn’t a catalyst for its deformation or errant nature. That would require some time and tools to alter. Briefly touching another car, I should think, might garner a reprimand but anything more would be very sus.

On the other hand, this could be very impactful for Lewis and at the most inopportune time in the championship fight. Lewis is already nursing a 5-place grid penalty for an engine change that has seen a 2/10’s pace advantage according to Red Bull which bodes very well for Lewis in the remaining races.

A DSQ or large penalty might put another nail in the coffin of his title defense and there is a political element to this as well. F1 wants this title to go down to the wire for obvious commercial reasons. Dismantling Lewis’s 2021 campaign in Brazil will put paid to the balance of the season so everyone is surely giving this a lot of thought. I am sure the sis what the entire situation is taking so long to render judgment on.

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charlie w

In the video, Max touched LH’s car which is a serious violation of parc ferme rules.

Glen Mhor

The teams will be checking all their measurements again and again. Unfortunate, and that’s it really – let’s hope it doesn’t spark any tedious behaviour from Toto or Christian.