Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of ending Nico Rosberg’s winning run at the Chinese GP have suffered a blow after it was revealed he will take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
The world champion, the pole sitter at 2016’s opening two rounds, will start no higher than sixth for Sunday’s race after Mercedes opted to change the gearbox in his car after it sustained damage in Bahrain. Hamilton confirmed the contact with Valtteri Bottas at turn one two weeks ago was not the cause.
F1 gearboxes have to last for six consecutive race weekends.
“It has been a good track to me for many years so I feel good coming here,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.
“Naturally when you arrive in Shanghai and find out you’re already going to be starting five places behind wherever I qualify is a kick in the goonies, but you just take it. Challenge is another opportunity to arise, rather than looking at the glass half empty, look at it half full.”
Mercedes later tweeted: “Not the ideal start to the #ChineseGP weekend, admittedly, but of all the places to take a grid hit, this is one of the better ones.”
Despite the damage to the gearbox not being the result of accident damage, Hamilton insists he is not worried about the reliability going forward.
“Not for me. They change it and I go again. I don’t use it as a concern, I’m sure the team are focussed on it,” he said.
Asked what caused the damage he responded: “It doesn’t really matter.”
Following poor starts from pole in each of the first two races, Hamilton already trails Rosberg by 17 points in the Drivers’ Championship.
The Briton has started either first or second amid a run of eight consecutive Mercedes front-row lockouts, with last September’s September Singapore GP the only time in the last 29 races Hamilton has not started in the front two.
Hamilton’s penalty now presents Ferrari with the chance to claim a rare front-row start as they look to recover from reliability problems in the first two races which have left them 50 points behind Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship.
With Rosberg on a run of five consecutive victories since his team-mate clinched his third world title in Austin last October, Hamilton will now bid to improve on a statistic which has seen him only win once – the 2014 British GP – when starting from outside the first two rows.
The 31-year-old has won a record four times in Shanghai, including the last two seasons.