Last weekend, F1 was in Brazil again and had the third Sprint Qualifying session of the season. Hamilton decided to make use of a new power unit and to take a five-place grid penalty for that. He dominated the whole qualifying session on Friday afternoon and beat Max Verstappen by over 4 tenths of a second. After the qualifying session and a lot of discussions, the stewards penelized Hamilton for a regulation infringement concerning the rear wings. The gap between the rear wings, when DRS was open, did not match the maximum allowed distance of 85mm. Hamilton was handed an additional 20 place penalty for this regulation infringement and had to start the Sprint Qualifying from the back of the grid. He managed to overtake 15 cars resulting in 5th place. Due to the power unit related penalty, Hamilton started the race on Sunday from 10th place.
During the race, Hamilton could catch up to the front fairly quickly – it was clear that Mercedes had a much better straight line speed compared to both of the Red Bulls. Most of the experts assume it was because of the fresh power unit for Hamilton. In Lap 48, Hamilton was eventually behind Verstappen and tried to overtake Verstappen in Turn 4. With Verstappen on the inside and both of the drivers braking so late, that they both went wide. Due to this move, Verstappen was able to keep Hamilton behind him. This incident caused a lot of attention since the stewards just only noted the incident, but did not investigate for a potential penalty against Verstappen. Let’s see if we can understand the incident from the available telemetry data.
Turn 4 Incident Analysis (Lap 48):
First of all let’s have a look at the race track itself. There are two main DRS zones where drivers can overtake. Hamilton has shown this multiple times throughout the weekend. The second DRS zone is directly heading towards Turn 4 – thus, it is crucial to get a good exit out of the Senna S’s (Turn 1-3) – either to stay ahead or to overtake.
Max Verstappen had to defend slightly into turn 1 on lap 48 resulting in a worse corner exit than Hamilton. We can see this from the graph below where Verstappen’s speed through turn 1 is lower than Hamiltons. The compromised exit and the DRS of Hamilton gave Hamilton the advantage he needed to start the attack against Verstappen. It is impressive that Hamilton achieved on this lap a 27 kph higher straight line speed than Verstappen; of course, Hamilton with DRS, Verstappen without.
Now let’s have a closer look into the telemetry data of Hamilton and Verstappen specificly for the turn 4 incident. On the x-axes we do see the progress of the lap or in other words the distance from the start-finish-line. So we can compare both drivers based on their position on the track – not necessarily based on the time when they were there.
This shows how late Verstappen really braked: He lifted the throttle a little earlier than Hamilton, but went on the brakes later. Also the speed graph on the top shows, that Verstappen went into the corner with a much higher speed compared to Hamilton. Hamilton also did not want to back out of the overtaking attempt and went wide as well avoiding any kind of contact with the Red Bull car. Hamilton could not get the move done and was then again behind Verstappen for another 11 laps…
Hamilton overtakes Verstappen in Lap 59
In Lap 59 Hamilton was able to line it up a lot better: Putting the pressure onto Max again in Turn 1 and compromising the exit of Max, but then being closer to the Red Bull and being able to overtake Max on the straight and not into the corner. Hamilton managed to overtake Verstappen around 200 meters earlier than before. We can also see that both are braking about 10-20 meters earlier into turn 4 than in Lap 48 – showing how much both were fighting in the Lap 48 overtaking attempt.