Lewis Hamilton’s championship challenge appears set to suffer another blow, with the Mercedes driver likely to incur a grid penalty for this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team is reportedly considering an engine change ahead of the race, which would mean a five-place grid drop for the seven-time champion.
A drop in water pressure during last weekend’s Mexico City Grand Prix is to blame for the change.
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The news was broken by Formula 1 journalist Julianne Cerasoli on Twitter.
“Hamilton will change the combustion engine in Interlagos,” she wrote.
“Mercedes thought they had solved the problem they had, but they noticed a drop in water pressure during the Mexico race.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen holds a 19-point lead in the title race with just four races remaining.
“I can’t really comment at the moment,” Hamilton said.
“I don’t know. I don’t think the engines have even arrived this morning.
“So as far as I’m aware currently, my engine is fine. But I’ll find out obviously, later on. We’ve not even done engineering meeting yet.”
Teams are restricted to three engines for the season. Hamilton took a 10-place penalty in Turkey for using a fourth engine, and now faces the possibility of another penalty for using a fifth engine.
It comes at a time when Verstappen has all the momentum in the championship battle, having outscored Hamilton by 31 points since the Hungarian Grand Prix in August. In the seven races since then, the Mercedes driver has only finished ahead of his Red Bull rival on one occasion.
“This year we have had our wings clipped. It has definitely been harder from an operational sense to maximise the car,” Hamilton said.
“We will just try to focus on getting the car in the right window, and that is not easy. It is not an easy car to set up.
“It is really difficult to explain and to go into in terms of details, but it is just harder to optimise.”
The Interlagos circuit was already expected to favour Verstappen’s Red Bull, making Hamilton’s task even harder.
This weekend will see the third instance of sprint qualifying being used, with the positions for the grand prix being set by a race on Saturday.
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