Mercedes have refuted any suggestion that Sir Lewis Hamilton touched the Red Bull rear wing after the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.
After Hamilton’s fifth-placed finish in Barcelona, he was called in for a routine drugs test and, on his way back from the medical centre, he squeezed by the Red Bull car of Sergio Perez.
Having sidled his way past the rear wing, he took a little look at the sidepods of the RB18, and the video clip of the moment has led to suggestions that he might have touched the car.
However, Mercedes have drawn attention to Hamilton’s thumb as he negotiated his way between the car and wall that was behind it, and affirmed that no contact was made.
“Some people seem to think he is touching the wing, but his hand isn’t on it,” said a Mercedes statement.
“At each end of the flap, you can see the white dot for legality – and the bracket which allows the flap to pivot when the DRS opens.
“Some people seem to think one of those brackets is his thumb – but it’s clearly not, as it’s the same on both sides.”
Max Verstappen was fined 50,000 euros last year for touching the Hamilton’s rear wing in parc ferme after qualifying at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The seven-time champion was later disqualified for a technical infringement on the wing, but there were suspicions that the Dutchman had tampered with it when he put his hand on it, hence the fine.
The FIA issued a statement to the drivers telling them that, while touching other cars in parc ferme is unlikely to do any damage, it is ill-advised in case they implicate themselves in a tampering case.
“It is clear to the stewards that it has become a habit of the drivers to touch cars after qualifying and the races,” they said.
“This was also the explanation of Verstappen, that it was simply habit to touch this area of the car which has been a point of speculation in recent races between both teams.
“This general tendency has been seen as mostly harmless and so has not been uniformly policed. Nevertheless, it is a breach of the parc ferme regulation and has significant potential to cause harm.
“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.
“The stewards further note that it is intended that all teams and drivers take notice that future breaches may incur different penalties from the Stewards of those events.”
This year, the governing body has added into the Article 60.5 of the technical regulations that drivers must not “interfere” with other cars in parc ferme.
It must also be added that Perez’s car will have already undergone scrutineering when Hamilton passed it, so if there was small contact, it is unlikely to be punished.