Belgian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton given 30-place grid penalty

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer at Spa-Francorchamps
Lewis Hamilton, left, appeared relaxed in Belgium as he took a selfie on his phone with a smiling Fernando Alonso
Lewis Hamilton, left, appeared relaxed in Belgium on Thursday as he took a selfie on his phone with a smiling Fernando Alonso
Belgian Grand Prix
Dates: 26-28 August. Venue: Spa-Francorchamps
BBC coverage: Race commentary - Sunday, 28 August (build-up on BBC Radio 5 live from 12:55, race starts at 13:00). Live text and radio updates of all practice sessions, qualifying and the race on the BBC Sport website

Lewis Hamilton says he will try to limit the damage to his title hopes in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

The defending champion made engine changes to his Mercedes in both practice sessions at Spa on Friday and has been given a 30-place grid penalty, which will only apply this weekend.

Hamilton has had to use more than the permitted number of engine parts after problems early in the season.

"I feel OK. It is going to be an interesting Sunday," said Hamilton.

"Getting into the top 10 probably won't be the particularly hard thing; it's going to be getting through there that is going to be the problem."

Hamilton starts the race with a 19-point advantage in the championship over Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

The Briton has been handed penalties of 15 grid places for each of his engine changes but the rules state a driver can drop no further than the back of the grid and that the penalty cannot be carried into the next race.

Hamilton, who has been joined by McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Sauber's Marcus Ericsson in incurring penalties, said he did not yet know how the team would approach qualifying, given he will be at the back of the grid regardless.

"I don't particularly care," he added. "I'm just focusing on getting the car as well prepared for the race as possible. I can't do anything about Nico. I'll let him do him and me do me."

Lewis Hamilton was 13th fastest in second practice
Lewis Hamilton was 13th fastest in second practice on Friday


by Andrew Benson, chief F1 writer

Hamilton is in this position because he had a series of engine failures in the early races of the season that not only affected his results in those events but also had a knock-on effect.

Drivers are allowed to use only five of each of the six constituent parts of the engine in a season, but Hamilton had consecutive failures of the MGU-H - the motor-generator unit that recovers energy from the turbo - in the races in China and Russia.

That meant he had already used five turbos and MGU-Hs and was always going to need to take new ones in the second part of the season.

Mercedes have chosen to take as many new engine parts as necessary this weekend to put Hamilton in the best possible position for the remainder of the season, because any penalty he incurs beyond 20 places is effectively taken for free.

He had already taken two completely new engines by the end of Friday and is considered likely to fit another for final practice on Friday morning, although Mercedes have not yet confirmed that.

'It makes my weekend less difficult'

Hamilton won six of the last seven races before F1's summer break, to close what had been a 43-point deficit to Rosberg after the German won the first four races, in which the world champion was hit by a string of problems, including the engine failures that have led to his penalty.

Rosberg, 31, will see this as an opportunity to reverse the momentum in the title race.

He is the only other driver to win more than one race this season and stands just 19 points behind the defending champion in the standings.

The German said: "It doesn't change the pressure I put myself under because I would love to have a great weekend and win.

"It will make the weekend less difficult for me but it is still a challenge because four weeks ago [at the last race] I finished behind two Red Bulls.

"And I have to reckon with Lewis because there is no reason with a safety car or something why he can't be right in the reckoning."

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