SAO PAULO — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was fined 50,000 euros ($57,200) by stewards Saturday at the Brazilian Grand Prix after video taken from the grandstands at Interlagos showed the Formula One championship leader touching the rear wing of rival Lewis Hamilton's car.
The Dutchman can appeal the decision given by the stewards, who said he did not harm his competitor's car with the touch.
The video recorded by a spectator shows Verstappen apparently inspecting the rear wing on the Mercedes in the Parc Ferme — a secure area for cars at the track.
“Considering the fact that no direct harm was caused in this case, in the opinion of the stewards, and that no earlier precedent of penalties for this exists – on the one hand; but that it is a breach of the regulation and has potential for serious consequences on the other, the stewards determine to take action in this case and order a fine of 50,000 euros,” the stewards said.
Article 2.5.1 of the FIA sporting code says that “inside the Parc Ferme, only the officials assigned may enter. No operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorized by the same officials or by the applicable regulations.”
Stewards said the footage showed Verstappen's touch is clear.
“(He takes) his gloves off and puts his right hand at the slot-gap of the rear wing of his car. He then moves to (Hamilton's) car 44 and repeats the exercise, touching the rear wing in two places, once on either side of the DRS actuation device, but on the bottom rear side of the wing, in the area of the slot gap and never near the actuator or the end fixation points,” the stewards added.
“There is absolutely no movement of any of the wing elements on car 44 when Verstappen touches the back of the wing and the stewards are satisfied, from watching all the videos, his body position and the video of the wing, that there was insignificant force when Verstappen touched the wing."
The FIA also summoned a Mercedes official for a separate meeting Saturday.
Hamilton beat Verstappen by more than 0.4 seconds in qualifying for Saturday's sprint race at Interlagos, but Mercedes is under investigation for its DRS exceeding the maximum distance when opened. The technical infringement typically leads to exclusion from a session.
Saturday's free practice session, which was not very competitive, ended with Alpine driver Fernando Alonso clocking the fastest lap, more than 0.8 ahead of second-placed Verstappen.
Verstappen leads Hamilton by 19 points in the standings with four races left this season. Regardless of the investigation into Hamilton's DRS, the British driver was already set to take a five-place penalty on the starting grid Sunday for an engine change.
The Brazilian GP is the third event of the season with a qualifying sprint race on Saturday to determine Sunday’s grid. The two previous sprint races were held at Silverstone and Monza.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said he would be surprised to see his driver punished for checking Hamilton's car.
"Drivers are very inquisitive animals sometimes. We’ve seen it many, many times,” Horner said.
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Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press