Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton's chances of beating teammate Nico Rosberg for the first time this season and closing the gap in the championship lead just got a little more difficult as the Briton was handed a five-place grid penalty for the Chinese Grand Prix due to a gear box change. The German driver has won the first two races of the 2016 F1 season despite the reigning World Champion qualifying on pole for both races.
F1 regulations state that every driver must use the same gearbox for six consecutive races and any change will incur a five-place grid penalty. The Mercedes team confirmed that the unit in Hamilton's car was damaged during the previous race at the Bahrain International Circuit and after an inspection in China, the team decided to fit a new unit for the race in Shanghai scheduled for 17 April.
This will hamper Hamilton's chances of beating the in-form Rosberg, who already holds a 17-point advantage in the Drivers' World Championship, and it will also put the former McLaren driver in the middle of the top-10 with the rest battling for positions on the first turn. The opening turn has not been kind to the three time World champion in the previous two races, and he will hope for a cleaner getaway this time around at the Shanghai international circuit.
The Mercedes is by far the quickest car on the grid, and the team believes that the Chinese Grand Prix is the best place to take the penalty as there are a number of overtaking opportunities, which will allow Hamilton to make his way up the grid and challenge the leaders.
"This is the best circuit to do so in the first six race cycle as overtaking is easier here compared to the coming tracks, so the overall impact of the grid penalty is judged to be less here in Shanghai," a Mercedes spokesman was quoted as saying by ESPN F1.