NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Lewis Hamilton Excluded from Qualifying, Max Verstappen to Start Sprint from Pole

Lewis Hamilton has officially been disqualified from Friday’s (Nov. 12) qualifying results due to a mechanical infraction that was discovered after the conclusion of qualifying. This exclusion means that Hamilton will start Saturday’s sprint race from last place, rather than starting on pole as he had earned by topping Friday qualifying.

Hamilton’s penalty is the result of his Mercedes’ rear wing failing post-qualiying scrutiny. According to the stewarding team, Hamilton’s rear-wing did not consistently meet the necessary measurements that must be demonstrated for a car to be legal.

When DRS is not deployed, a gap between the upper and lower portions of the rear wing must fall between 10 and 15 millimeters. On this matter, Hamilton’s car was kosher. However, regulations stipulate that when DRS is deployed (when the rear wing opens) the gap must measure between 10 and 85 millimeters. Here, the Mercedes came up short.

According to the stewards, the gap was legally measured toward the center of the rear wing, however toward the outer section, the wing opening exceeded the maximum acceptable breadth.

Controversially, Max Verstappen was also summoned to the stewards on Friday after he was seen briefly touching the rear wing of the Mercedes. Verstappen exited his car after qualifying, examined the rear wing of his own Red Bull, then walked over and performed a similar examination on the rear wing of Hamilton’s car.

Hamilton and Mercedes agreed that Verstappen most likely didn’t detrimentally alter anything on the Mercedes with the power of his hand alone, however neither party was willing to write that off entirely.

Verstappen has accrued a 50,000 Euro fine for violating parc ferme regulations. Article 2.5.1 of the FIA International Sporting Code asserts that “in 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.”

Being as Verstappen is not an assigned official, his touching of Hamilton’s car is a clear violation of Article 2.5.1. Nevertheless, Hamilton’s penalty promotes Verstappen to first place for the start of Saturday’s sprint race. This makes 50,000 Euros a small price to pay.

Most importantly, this development bears no weight on Hamilton’s five-place grid penalty due to be administered on Sunday. If Hamilton charges from last to first in the sprint race, his best possible starting spot on Sunday remains sixth place.

While Mercedes started the weekend on a much needed high note, and Hamilton in particular put on a stellar performance in Friday qualifying, the Briton now finds himself at the end of the longest line for Saturday, with the Mercedes ability behind the dirty air of 19 other cars being up for debate.

As a result, Valtteri Bottas will join Verstappen on the front row for Saturday, while Sergio Perez is promoted to a third place starting spot. Pierre Gasly will join Perez on the second row.

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