The potential “smoking gun” video footage that could see Lewis Hamilton further close the gap to Max Verstappen for the Formula One world championship has been released following Sunday’s São Paulo Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team were furious at the “laughable” decision not to penalise Verstappen after the duo were vying for first place and the Belgian-born World Championship leader was accused of “cramping” Hamilton “off the road” at turn four.
The defending champions have now requested a right of review from the FIA now that the on-board footage of the incident has been released.
Mercedes thought that there should have been at least a five-second penalty, a sanction that would have relegated Verstappen behind Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas to third.
If this were applied it would reduce his championship advantage over Hamilton from 14 to 11 points.
If the stewards decide to reconvene to examine the new evidence and review their initial decision, it would likely be on the Thursday or Friday in Qatar before this weekend’s grand prix in Losail.
No formal investigation was launched in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s race but FIA race director Michael Masi conceded that Verstappen’s forward-facing on-board camera “could be the smoking gun”.
After collisions in the Grand Prix of the previous two sprint weekends, Hamilton and Verstappen came within inches of a third incident when Verstappen was accused of forcing both drivers off track as Hamilton tried to pass on the outside. “Lewis managed brilliantly to avoid the contact,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
“But that was over the line and it should have been at least a five-second penalty but brushing it under the carpet is the tip of the iceberg. It is just laughable.
“I am OK if the race director’s notes are being shredded and we just race hard, but if the director’s notes say you cannot push anybody off the track, and then you are being driven off the track it is just not very consistent. I will discuss it with the race director behind closed doors.
“We have had many punches in the face this weekend and I am just angry about that. I am usually diplomatic but diplomacy has ended.”
Asked if the forward-facing on-board footage from Verstappen’s Red Bull had been available when initially considering the incident, Masi said that there was access only to the broadcasters’ footage. “It hasn’t been obtained yet – it has been requested,” he said.
The FIA’s International Sporting Code allows a right to review on the grounds that “a significant and relevant new element is discovered which was unavailable to the parties seeking the review at the time of the decision concerned”.
On top of Verstappen not being penalised, Mercedes were furious that Hamilton was disqualified from qualifying when the rear wing on his Mercedes car failed a scrutineering test by 0.2mm, and the British driver’s £4,200 fine for undoing his seat belts as he celebrated his once-in-a-lifetime comeback triumph.
Hamilton and Verstappen will continue their rivalry at the Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday. There are three rounds left and 78 points still available in the championship.