'Astonishing': Lewis Hamilton at centre of 'unbelievable' F1 drama

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Pictured right, Lewis Hamilton overtakes Lando Norris in the F1 sprint in Sao Paulo.
Lewis Hamilton sent a stunning message to his rivals with an amazing drive in the F1 sprint in Sao Paulo. Pic: Getty/F1

Lewis Hamilton has sent a stunning message to his Formula One rivals with an extraordinary drive in the Brazilian Grand Prix sprint on Sunday that's left fans in awe. 

Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas won the 24-lap sprint to claim the three bonus points ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, who picked up the two and one point bonuses, respectively.

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However, it was the drive of seven-time world champion Hamilton that had fans talking afterwards, with the Brit finishing fifth after starting last because of an infringement with his Mercedes in qualifying a day earlier.

Hamilton could be heard saying on team radio the sprint that "this isn't over yet" in reference to the title race.

Verstappen is still in the box seat to claim his maiden F1 world title after the two bonus points saw him extend the lead in the standings to 21 points over Hamilton.

However, the Red Bull driver will be no doubt worried about the incredible speed Hamilton showed after being hamstrung by his grid penalty.

Hamilton had to start from the back of the grid after stewards ruled that his Mercedesโ€™ DRS system (the flap mounted on the rear wing of the car which opens to gain top speed) exceeded allowed limits.

The punishment meant Verstappen took Hamilton's place at the front of the grid but it was the Brit's Mercedes teammate Bottas who got the jump on the Dutchman at the start and hung on to win the Brazil sprint, to claim the maximum three points.

But it was Hamilton's extraordinary drive, in which he started from 20th position and finished 5th in just 24 laps, that lit up social media.

Hamilton will start 10th in Sunday's race after the previous penalty for switching engines.

Finn Bottas picked up three extra points for winning the sprint race, which was being trialled for the third and final time in F1 this season.

The 100 kilometre sprint was about a third of Sunday's race distance - 24 laps - with free use of tyres.

"We knew the soft (tyre) would be a benefit for the start and it worked, and then it was all about trying to survive until the end," Bottas said. "I'm glad it worked out perfectly."

Verstappen was second in the sprint, collecting two points, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz third which is worth one point and third on the grid.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez was fourth while McLaren's Lando Norris was sixth and his Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo 11th.

Max Verstappen extends lead in drivers' standings

World championship leader Verstappen copped a 50,000 euros ($A78,000) fine after he touched and examined the rear wing of Hamilton's Mercedes following qualifying for the Sao Paulo GP.

The Dutch 24-year-old now leads seven times world champion Hamilton by 21 points with four races left after Sunday's sprint.

Verstappen's huge fine came after the Dutchman inspected the rear wing elements on his car and Hamilton's Mercedes, touching them with his hands.

The stewards said in a statement that Verstappen had breached article 2.5.1 of the international sporting code. The article covers behaviour in the secure 'parc ferme' area after qualifying.

It stipulates that no unauthorised "operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed".

In-car footage and video filmed by a fan was looked at by stewards as part of the hearing.

It clearly showed Verstappen getting out of his car, removing his gloves and putting his right hand into the slot gap of the Red Bull's rear wing. He then moved to the Mercedes and did the same, touching the rear wing in two places.

Seen here, Max Verstappen captured on camera appearing to touch Lewis Hamilton's car.
Max Verstappen was captured on camera appearing to touch Lewis Hamilton's car. (Image: Twitter)

The stewards' report said there was no movement of any of the wing elements of Hamilton's car when touched with what they described as "insignificant force".

"It is clear to the stewards that it has become a habit of the drivers to touch cars after qualifying and the races," it added.

"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."

Stewards decided a fine was sufficient on this occasion but warned teams that future incidents could incur different penalties.

with AAP

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