Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has affirmed that while Sir Lewis Hamilton’s engine performance at the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix was a “unique situation,” he has no interest in questioning the legality of it.
Hamilton qualified for the Brazilian Sprint in first place, but thanks to a rear-wing irregularity, the Mercedes driver was disqualified, placing him last on the grid for the Sprint event.
His title rival Max Verstappen was seen touching the rear wing of his Mercedes W12 in Parc Ferme, earning him a fine, but this was unrelated to the irregularity (which was related to the size of the slot gap in the Mercedes’ Drag Reduction System.)
The Briton’s performance in the Sprint was magical. He recovered from P20 to P5 over the course of the significantly shortened race distance, but owing to a penalty already obtained because of a new engine fitted by his Mercedes team, he would start Sunday’s race in tenth.
Undeterred, Hamilton recovered from tenth on the grid to pass Verstappen late in the race, winning the grand prix 10 seconds clear of the Dutchman.
In the final three races of the year – Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi – Dr Marko believes that Hamilton’s engine performed differently to Brazil, but he has now downplayed the notion that Mercedes did anything illegal.
“I’m sure everything was legal in the races after Brazil. All the top speed measurements were within the limits again afterwards,” Dr Marko said.
Hamilton’s Brazil engine was labelled a “rocket” by Dr Marko after the Brit used a previous engine in Qatar and still won in dominant fashion.
The Brazil engine was re-installed ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – which would ultimately be littered with controversy – but the 78-year-old did not see it as a game-changer because of the rear wing incident a few weeks before.
“Because you can no longer lower the spoiler, it will no longer bring an advantage of 0.4 seconds,” he said.
Dr Marko is still not entirely convinced about the legality of the engine, but does not want to make a claim based on little evidence.
“The way Hamilton flew past us [in Brazil], that was already a unique situation. Everything fitted together perfectly on that engine, we know that too.
“It was just amazing, there are six [eight] Mercedes-powered cars and only Hamilton had such a wonder weapon. But that’s the way it is and we don’t want to accuse anything there,” the Austrian cautioned.
Verstappen would ultimately beat Hamilton to the title after a contentious ending to the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Race director Michael Masi allowed only the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to overtake the Safety Car late on, resulting in the Dutchman passing the seven-time world champion to win the title on the very last lap of the race.
Mercedes protested the race result, before later lodging their intention to appeal the Championship result, but they ultimately withdrew this. They did, however, manage to claim their record-eighth straight Constructors’ Championship in 2021.