Max Verstappen faces grid penalty in further blow in Lewis Hamilton F1 title battle

F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar

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Max Verstappen could potentially face another hurdle in his bid to dethrone current Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton after faults were found in the engine of his car. If the problems are serious enough to force an engine change, the Red Bull driver could suffer a grid penalty.

Speaking after the Hungarian Grand Prix, Red Bull team advisor Helmut Marko said:

“The engine was no longer usable, and we still have to investigate whether it can be saved.”

The engine manufacturers Honda and Red Bull themselves were initially happy with how the engine responded in Friday’s practice session in Hungary, however as the weekend progressed various issues appeared and Honda decided to insert a new unit.

Each driver is only permitted three new engines per season- and if Honda are unable to fix the issues during the season, then they will likely have to use a fourth engine and accept punishment. 

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Marko seemed pessimistic about the chances of saving the engine and certain that the problems arose from Verstappen’s dramatic crash with Hamilton at Silverstone in the previous Grand Prix.

He said: “At the moment, we have to assume that we will put in a fourth engine, which means that we will have a grid penalty. 

“The damage is the result of the crash at Silverstone.”

The potential for a further penalty for Red Bull as a result of that crash will only serve to worsen the already frosty tensions between Formula 1’s most competitive teams- as will the events of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The race was a hugely dramatic affair, ending in the unlikeliest of maiden victories for Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.

The first lap produced untold chaos. Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas struggled to get off the grid before braking too late into the first corner, crashing into Lando Norris and Sergio Perez before Norris’ car inadvertently rammed Verstappen.

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Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll causes similar carnage at the same turn as he took out the Ferrari driver by Charles Leclerc.

The came a bizarre error by Hamilton’s team- as the rest of the field switched to slick tyres after the track was cleared of debris, the Englishman remained on intermediates- causing him to be considerably slower than the rest of the field. By the time the mistake had been rectified a lap later, Hamilton was dead last out of the pit lane.

Ocon and former world champion Sebastian Vettel the unexpectedly lead the way for the rest of the race, as Hamilton duelled with his former teammate and rival Fernando Alonso to get back into contention. Alonso managed to stifle the seven-time world champion for 10 laps, ensuring Ocon’s safety at the front of the pack and a third place finish for Hamilton.

Even Hamilton could appreciate the artistry of Alonso’s defensive efforts.

He exclaimed: “It was amazing- it really, really was fantastic.”

Verstappen was able to finish the race, but with his car badly damaged, he was unable to make up serious ground on the leaders.

Hamilton and Verstappen were both eventually bumped up a position as Vettel, who had finished barely a second in front of Hamilton in second, was unable to provide enough fuel to the stewards at the end of the race, resulting in disqualification.

Hamilton now leads the driver’s championship standings by six points, having overcome a 32-point deficit in just two races. Formula 1 now goes into its mid-season break before resuming in Belgium on August 27.

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