Lewis Hamilton’s first competitive action since winning the world championship lasted less than two minutes as he crashed out of qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who clinched his fourth Formula One title at the last race in Mexico, lost control of his Mercedes at 160mph through turn six of the Interlagos circuit before thudding into the tyre barrier.
The 32-year-old Englishman remained in his cockpit for some moments before informing his team that he was not injured in the high-speed smash.
Hamilton’s car sustained significant damage in the incident and he will now start Sunday’s race, the penultimate of the season, from the back of the field.
Hamilton topped both practice sessions here on Friday, with his Mercedes team appearing on course to dominate the penultimate race of the campaign.
But Hamilton, who has enjoyed a largely faultless season, will now have his work cut out to salvage a strong result here on Sunday.
Hamilton’s crash, which followed a very slight sprinkling of rain, marked the first time he has failed to progress from Q1 – the opening phase of qualifying – since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, a streak of 27 races.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Hamilton said: “I’m okay. It happened really quickly. I tend to just look at it as challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them makes life meaningful.
“I just need to take whatever bubble of negativity comes from that experience and move forwards and try and grow from it.
“It’s very unusual from me but it shows we are all human and things happen.
“I will try to have as much fun as possible tomorrow. Years ago I came from quite far behind and had a great race.”