Hamilton was thrown to the back of the grid for Saturday’s sprint race at Interlagos after FIA inspections following qualifying on Friday showed the gap between his rear wing elements was too wide when DRS was activated.
The rules state the DRS opening can be no greater than 85mm when the overtaking aid is opened.
Speaking on Saturday evening after the sprint race, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff expressed some annoyance about the way that zero tolerance was allowed, despite the team suspecting that the rear wing had been damaged in qualifying.
He also questioned why the matter went to the stewards in the first place, whereas other teams have been allowed to make repairs to damaged components under parc ferme conditions.
“I think how the process went from telling us, discovering that we’ve marginally failed the test, we are speaking 0.2 of a millimetre, to not allowing this to be fixed, like the normal protocol would be, but rather it being reported to the stewards, the bullet was out of the gun,” said Wolff.
“I think that put the stewards in a very difficult situation to come up with the right judgement. But, to be honest, until late this afternoon, we believed that it was okay.
“The wing was damaged. One side was okay, the middle was okay. The right side was not okay, and that means we actually had a performance disadvantage.
“So we thought that, in consideration of all these aspects, the FIA would say there was damage and therefore we weren’t in breach of the regulations. They also said there was nothing that happened with intent from our side.
“But then we were reading disqualified, which honestly, I couldn’t believe. I thought that [sporting director] Ron Meadows was making a joke when I saw the WhatsApp.
“So strange things happen. But you have to take it on the chin, and the last 60 minutes of motor racing, from Valtteri [Bottas] and from Lewis, brought all the enjoyment back with all of frustrations that happened before.”
Wolff said that Mercedes had still been unable to conduct a detailed inspection of the rear wing to get to the bottom of what had caused the problem – but he says that visual indications point towards something untoward having happened in qualifying.
“We haven’t got the wing back,” he said. “The wing stays with FIA all weekend, and we couldn’t evaluate what the damage was beyond the visual look that our number one [mechanic] Nathan [Divey] had whilst the test was being performed. He came back and said something’s broken because of the odd behaviour of the rear wing.”