Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of catching Formula One leader Max Verstappen have been dealt another huge blow, as the Englishman is set to be given a five-place penalty at this week’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton already finds himself 19 points off Verstappen in the standings with just four races to go in the season, meaning a big performance in Brazil is more than needed for the seven-time world champion.
However, things are now set to get a whole lot tougher for the Englishman, as Mercedes are set to be forced into a combustion engine change after noticing a drop in water pressure during Hamilton's last outing in Mexico last Sunday.
Hamilton was coy when asked about the expected grid penalty: "I can't really comment at the moment. I don't think the engines have even arrived. As far as I am aware currently my engine is fine. I will find out obviously later on. We've not even done an engineering [meeting] yet."
This means the 2020 Formula One champion will now be dealt a starting penalty on Sunday’s grid, and not for the first time this campaign.
F1 rules state that each driver is entitled to three Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) changes per season, however Hamilton was forced into a fourth at last month’s Turkish Grand Prix.
The Englishman was then handed a 10-place grid penalty for the change before managing to salvage a fifth place finish in Istanbul, three places behind title rival Verstappen who then leap-frogged the Brit to the top of the standings.
And it could be more of the same for the seven-time world champion this week in Brazil, with the penalty expected to once again be handed to Hamilton following a fifth engine change.
The penalised engine change may not come as a surprise to many, as Mercedes team principal Totto Wolff had previously revealed a fifth switch would not be ruled out if needed.
Wolff previously told Sky Sports F1: “It [fourth ICE] can last until the end of the season but there could be a moment where we say is it worth taking a fresh one because the other one is still at risk.
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"So this is something that is going to be really a work in progress.”
Mercedes fans will be no stranger to grid penalties, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas already on his sixth ICE of the 2021 campaign, having taken a five-place grid penalty at the recent United States Grand Prix.
Following his starting deficit, the Finn was only able to pick up a sixth-place finish in Austin, and there is no doubt Hamilton and Mercedes will be needing much more than that in Brazil if he is to remain in the title race.
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