Sir Lewis Hamilton's championship hopes have been dealt another blow after it was confirmed he will serve a grid penalty for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
It was widely reported on Thursday that Hamilton, 36, will be demoted five places for Sunday's race at Interlagos after taking on his fifth Mercedes engine of the season.
The British driver, who trails Max Verstappen by 19 points, will be given the punishment following the conclusion of Saturday's sprint race.
The news was confirmed by the official F1 Twitter account, that posted "Lewis Hamilton takes an engine change and a 5-place grid penalty for Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix."
It means even if he wins the shortened race on Saturday, he will start Sunday's main event no higher than sixth.
Qualifying for the sprint takes place at 4pm local time (7pm UK) on Friday.
Mercedes believe taking the punishment here will at least allow Hamilton to compete for points in the sprint race – the third and concluding event of the season.
The winner of Saturday's race takes three points, the runner-up two points, and third place, one point. The result also determines the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton's latest setback comes just five days after title rival Verstappen drove to a comprehensive win in Mexico City to extend his championship lead while Hamilton was left hanging on to second place, under pressure from another Red Bull driver in Sergio Perez.
At last month's Turkish Grand Prix, Hamilton had to take a mandatory 10-place grid penalty for making his fourth engine change of the campaign.
Mercedes then believed they had the issue sorted, but in Mexico, the team noted that Hamilton's internal combustion engine had suffered a drop in water pressure during the race.
Hamilton and his team were already perceived to be up against it in Sao Paulo, at a track which traditionally favours Red Bull and where Verstappen, 24, won when an F1 race was last held there in 2019.
Indeed, speaking to reporters on Thursday, Hamilton, who said he needs to win all four remaining races to retain his world crown, admitted to being worried about Red Bull's recent pace.
"I think today with their superior speed, if they were to carry that into the next [races], then we may be in trouble – or we will be in trouble," he said.
"I don't know if they'll be using that huge wing that they had on today. Naturally, we'll find out when we get there, but I hope we're closer."
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