LEWIS HAMILTON’S hopes of a record-breaking eighth F1 world title could be up in smoke after a potential breach of the regulations during qualifying in Brazil.
The Brit trounced championship rival Max Verstappen in Sao Paolo to earn pole position for Saturday’s sprint race – and a chance to claw back two points.
But Hamilton’s joy was short-lived after news his Mercedes is pending an FIA investigation after it opened more than it should when DRS was activated, giving him an extra burst of speed.
If Hamilton’s Silver Arrow has breached the technical regulations he could be disqualified.
This would see him start at the back of the grid for sprint qualifying, which will determine the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Hamilton already trails Verstappen by 19 points and the Dutchman could open up a bigger gap on the defending champion if Hamilton is to start the Brazilian Grand Prix from the back of the field.
The FIA have summoned a representative of Mercedes to the stewards to discuss the incident.
To add salt to the wounds, Hamilton will also be met with a five-place grid penalty on Sunday after taking on a new engine.
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Meaning any ground he makes up in the 100km sprint qualifying race will all be undone for the Grand Prix.
It has overshadowed what appeared to be a turning point for Mercedes in the championship, after Hamilton showed incredible pace to beat Verstappen by 0.4 seconds.
Before the rear wing was reported to the FIA, Hamilton was amazed to see how much Mercedes had improved since the Mexico GP.
He said: “We’ve been working so hard to get this car right, it’s been tough.
“So to finally get the car feeling like it did today, it feels great and it’s just a testament to all the hard work in the garage and at home to try and pull out everything we have in the car.
“The last two poles I’ve had, I’ve had a penalty. So it’s a bit unfortunate to have the penalty but it is what it is.
“I don’t know if the pace will translate to the race, but I’ve been going from P3 and I sit there for the whole hour trying to make the right set up changes in practice and the anxiety you get is crazy.
“A lot of times I get it wrong and today I got it right and the car was really nice to drive.
“It was everything I wanted and then that enabled me to keep pushing and you could just see purple, purple, purple and I was just gaining each time.
“I don’t know how we can go from one track where they are half a second ahead to then being behind, but anyway they will be very strong in the race tomorrow and I hope Valtteri [Bottas] gets a good start.”
Although Verstappen wasn’t shocked to see his rival thriving with his fresh Mercedes-powered engine.
Verstappen said: “Naturally when they take a new engine they have more power for the weekend.
“For me it’s not a big shock, I am just happy to be second, that’s a good position to start from.
“Of course you want to be closer but sometimes you just have to be realistic and there wasn’t much more in it.”