• McLaren driver faces penalty for change of gearbox
• Highest Hamilton can start on the grid is sixth
Lewis Hamilton faces the handicap of a five-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix due to a change of gearbox. The situation puts the McLaren driver on the back foot for a race he has won twice in the past four years.
It also scuppers Hamilton’s hopes of a hat-trick of poles for the first time in his Formula One career after taking top spot on the grid in the opening two races in Australia and Malaysia. The 27-year-old could qualify on pole but would have to start from sixth at the Shanghai International Circuit, providing no issues occur for those ahead of him.
“The team only discovered there was an issue in the last 48 hours or something like that,” said Hamilton. “I don’t know the absolute details as to what has happened, but it means we have to change. That’s racing.”
McLaren will use the old gearbox for Friday’s practice sessions before changing it ahead of qualifying on Saturday. Despite the issue, Hamilton claims it will not make a difference as to how he goes about his strategy for the weekend. “It doesn’t alter my approach at all. I’ll approach it exactly the same,” added Hamilton. “I still have to qualify as high as possible, and then in the race, well I won from third last year, so now I just have to win from further back.”
The rules stipulate that drivers must use the same gearbox for five successive grands prix and unscheduled changes incur a five-position grid penalty. “We have a bit of a steeper hill to climb this weekend,” said Hamilton, “but that’s motor racing. Fernando Alonso won the last race from way back on the grid and it looks as though conditions could be changeable on Sunday, so anything is possible.
“We have put some upgrades on the car this weekend and should be competitive again. Besides, I always enjoy having to work my way forward in the race”
Hamilton presently lies second in the championship, five points behind Ferrari driver Alonso, after finishing third in the first two races.