F1: Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen under investigation after Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying

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F1: Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen under investigation after Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying
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Both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are facing the prospect of penalties ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who has already been hit with a five-place grid penalty despite qualifying first for Saturday’s sprint race following an engine change, is currently 19 points behind his Red Bull counterpart with four rounds left.

Two hours and 15 minutes after qualifying fastest at Interlagos, Hamilton’s Mercedes team were summoned to see the stewards following an alleged infringement on the rear wing of their driver’s car.

It was claimed by Formula One’s technical delegate, Jo Bauer, that Hamilton’s Drag Reduction System on the back of his Mercedes was operating at a bigger gap than is permitted, allowing him to produce a greater top speed.

Stewards confirmed the rear wing assembly of Hamilton’s car would be removed and impounded overnight.

The saga then took another turn 30 minutes later when the stewards announced that they had summoned Verstappen and a Red Bull representative to appear before them at 9.30am local time on Saturday for an “alleged breach of Article 2.5.1 of the FIA International Sporting Code”.

That article states that “in the parc ferme, only the officials assigned may enter. No operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorised by the same officials or by the applicable regulations.”

It means both title contenders could face penalties. Hamilton is currently 19 points behind Verstappen with just four rounds left.

If Hamilton’s car is adjudged to be illegal, the seven-time world champion could be excluded from qualifying - resulting in a pit-lane start for Saturday’s 24-lap dash at Interlagos - and a catastrophic dent in his bid to secure a record-breaking eighth title.

The winner of the sprint race is awarded three points, the runner-up two and third place one point. The result also determines the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hamilton will already be demoted five places for Sunday’s grand prix after Mercedes changed his engine for a fifth time this season.

Only three engine changes are permitted under the rules.

Earlier, Hamilton had appeared to resurrect his fading hopes of beating Verstappen to the title after qualifying 0.438 seconds clear of his Red Bull rival.

Hamilton has been jeered by Verstappen’s travelling army at a number of venues this year but here in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, the British driver is the fans’ overwhelming favourite - his pole lap greeted with a deafening cheer.

Additional reporting from PA

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