Max Verstappen fined €50,000 for touching title rival Lewis Hamilton's car at Sao Paulo Grand Prix

The moment Verstappen cost himself €50,000 after wing inspection (0:27)

Max Verstappen touches the rear wing of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes after qualifying for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. (0:27)

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Max Verstappen has been fined €50,000 for touching the rear wing of championship rival Lewis Hamilton's car after qualifying for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

In what was a remarkable morning of speculation and intrigue, Verstappen visited the stewards on Saturday morning after a fan video had emerged the previous evening.

The video, recorded from the grandstand running parallel to the start-finish straight and paddock area, appeared to show Verstappen walking up to and touching the rear wing assembly of Hamilton's car after the conclusion of qualifying.

It was a remarkable turn of events. In the time between the end of qualifying and the video of Verstappen emerging online, Hamilton's car had been the subject of a stewards investigation around the legality of the same part of the car Verstappen was seen touching and examining. That investigation is still ongoing.

In the Verstappen case, the stewards cited an alleged breach of Article 2.5.1 of the FIA International Sporting Code.

The section of the International Sporting Code states that "inside the parc ferme, only the officials assigned may enter. No operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorised by the same officials or by the applicable regulations".

On Saturday, over four hours after Verstappen had seen the stewards, the decision was issued.

Having looked at the fan footage and additional video from CCTV in the pit-lane and onboards from the cars of Verstappen, Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Fernando Alonso, and having listened Verstappen's explanation, the stewards issued the championship leader with the fine.

The verdict said Verstappen had explained "it has become a habit of the drivers to touch cars after qualifying and the races."

Verstappen also told the stewards "it was simply a habit to touch this area of the car which has been a point of speculation in recent races between both teams", referring to Red Bull's surprise at the straight-line speed Mercedes has shown in previous events.

Crucially, the verdict said: "Considering the fact that no direct harm was caused in this case, in the opinion of the stewards, and that no earlier precedent of penalties for this exists -- on the one hand it is a breach of the regulation and has potential for serious consequences on the other, the stewards determine to take action in this case and order a fine of €50,000."

That line will be key, as there was speculation the adjournment in the investigation into the legality of Hamilton's car and the video of Verstappen touching it were linked.

After qualifying FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer referred Hamilton's car to the stewards for closer investigation in accordance with Article 3.6.3.

"The uppermost rear wing element adjustable positions were checked on car number 44 for compliance with Article 3.6.3 of the 2021 Formula One Technical Regulations," Bauer wrote.

"The requirement for the minimum distance was fulfilled. But the requirement for the maximum of 85mm, when the DRS system is deployed and tested in accordance with TD/011-19, were [sic] not fulfilled."

If the rear wing was deemed to be in breach of the regulations, it would appear to be a fairly straightforward disqualification from qualifying for Hamilton. That would see him lose first place on the grid for Saturday's sprint race and likely result in a pit-lane start.

However, that investigation was adjourned overnight, as the FIA said it would not have access to some evidence until the following morning. Mercedes visited the stewards at 10.30 AM local time on Saturday morning, an hour after Verstappen had been in. That investigation is still ongoing, with a verdict expected to follow the Verstappen decision.