Lewis Hamilton has received a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change at the Chinese GP.
The penalty might mark the end of his chances of taking over Nico Rosberg’s winning run, as the world champion 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.
F1 gearboxes have to last for six consecutive race weekends.
“This weekend is going to be tough,” Hamilton posted on Instagram.
“I will start with a 5 place grid penalty due to a gearbox change but because of you guys [Chinese fans] I feel energised, motivated, and confident that we can regain ground lost.”
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.”
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.