Formula One: Hamilton handed five-place grid penalty for Austrian GP

Hamilton at his team garage during the second practice session in Austria.
Hamilton at his team garage during the second practice session in Austria.PHOTO: EPA

SPIELBERG, Austria (REUTERS) - Formula One title contender Lewis Hamilton will have a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix after his car required an unscheduled gearbox change, Mercedes said on Friday (July 7).

The drop means he cannot equal Michael Schumacher’s all-time pole position record of 68 at his home British Grand Prix next week. Hamilton is currently on 66 and had been favourite to take the top slot in Austria.

A Mercedes team spokesman said the gearbox problem resulted from the previous race in Azerbaijan.

The Formula One technical delegate said in a statement that Mercedes had informed him about the change last Tuesday.

Hamilton started on pole in Baku but finished fifth after having to pit to fix a loose headrest.

The Briton is 14 points behind Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel in the standings after eight of 20 races. Both have won three races each.

The pair clashed in Baku when Vettel drove into the back of the Mercedes while they were behind the safety car and then banged wheels angrily after pulling alongside.

Vettel, who finished fifth in Baku, apologised for the incident of “road rage” after a hearing in Paris on Monday. It was not known whether the damage to Hamilton’s gearbox resulted from the collision.

Hamilton was fastest in Friday’s free practice with Vettel a close second.