Max Verstappen has been fined €50,000 ($57,000) for touching Lewis Hamilton’s rear wing in parc ferme at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Hamilton set the fastest time in qualifying, over 0.4s clear of Verstappen as the Mercedes driver dominated after taking a new power unit at Interlagos. However, the championship leader checked the rear wings of both his own car and Hamilton’s in parc ferme, and it later transpired Hamilton was under investigation for his rear wing failing scrutineering.
While Mercedes went to the stewards to discuss its DRS opening more than the permitted 85mm, the investigation on Friday night was adjourned until Saturday, with Verstappen then summoned for breaching parc ferme regulations that state “no operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorized by the … officials or by the applicable regulations.”
After a heading on Saturday morning, the stewards finally delivered a decision on Verstappen after the final practice session, handing out a hefty fine while accepting no harm had been done as part of what had become common practice among drivers in parc ferme.
“The stewards also examined a fan video taken from across the track, CCTV video footage taken from pit lane and in car footage from car 14, car 33, car 44 and car 77,” the decision read. “In all, these videos gave a clear picture of what occurred in parc ferme following the qualifying session.
“Verstappen exits the car, then moves to the rear of his car. He then takes his gloves off and puts his right hand at the slot-gap of the rear wing of his car. He then moves to car 44 and repeats the exercise, touching the rear wing in two places, once on either side of the DRS actuation device, but on the bottom rear side of the wing, in the area of the slot gap and never near the actuator or the end fixation points.
“Clear, high definition video from the rear facing roll-hoop camera on car 44 shows that there is absolutely no movement of any of the wing elements on car 44 when Verstappen touches the back of the wing and the Stewards are satisfied, from watching all the videos, his body position and the video of the wing, that there was insignificant force when Verstappen touched the wing.
“It is clear to the Stewards that it has become a habit of the drivers to touch cars after qualifying and the races. This was also the explanation of Verstappen, that it was simply habit to touch this area of the car which has been a point of speculation in recent races between both teams. This general tendency has been seen as mostly harmless and so has not been uniformly policed. Nevertheless, it is a breach of the parc ferme regulation and has significant potential to cause harm.
“Considering the fact that no direct harm was caused in this case, in the opinion of the Stewards, and that no earlier precedent of penalties for this exists – on the one hand; but that it is a breach of the regulation and has potential for serious consequences on the other, the Stewards determine to take action in this case and order a fine of €50,000. The Stewards further note that it is intended that all teams and drivers take notice that future breaches may incur different penalties from the Stewards of those events.”
The wording of the decision suggests Mercedes can’t use Verstappen’s actions as a reason for Hamilton’s rear wing failing scrutineering.