Lewis Hamilton reversed the roles from the Formula One race at COTA 2022. During the final laps this year it was he who was hunting down Verstappen rather than the other way around.
The result though was no different. Verstappen despite brake issues he complained about throughout the race, hung on sides being on a sub-optimal strategy due to him starting in P6.
Hamilton suffers from Merc strategy
Yet the results celebrated on the podium are always provisional given the F1 cars must be scrutinised to ensure they complied with the FIA regulations during the race.
Hamilton fought a brave race and came close to his first win in almost 24 months, but the indecision from his Mercedes strategy team most likely cost him the top step of the podium.
The strategists prior to the race were split on whether the quickest way to complete the 57 laps was with just two sets of tyres or by utilising three.
When Verstappen, Norris and Sainz all stopped early declaring their hands to be a three stop race, Mercedes asked Lewis whether he could extend the sting five more laps than originally planned. Clearly they believed a one stop race was possible.
Leclerc drops from pole to P6
Hamilton was none committal in his reply, but the team left him out as he ploughed on leading the race.
It soon became clear the team had made the wrong decision because Verstappen on just lap three of his fresh rubber was 3 seconds a lap quicker than Hamilton and had overhauled the deficit he faced to the Mercedes driver before the pit stop.
Another two laps of dither from Mercedes saw Hamilton fall further behind the race leader once his pit stop had been completed. With hindsight this delay cost Hamilton a realistic shot at the race win given he was closing on the world champion at a rate of knots as the final laps counted down.
Meanwhile Ferrari had decided to keep their driver Charles Leclerc on the one stop strategy Mercedes considered, but this didn’t work out for the Monegasque driver either. Having started on pole position, Leclerc ended up a poor P6 and some 25 seconds behind the race winner.
Hamilton/Leclerl facing race disqualification
Whilst on different strategies, Hamilton and Leclerc may find themselves being disqualified from the race completely. Long after the fans had dispersed the news came from Joe Baur, the FIA’s technical delegate, that two cars had failed one too the FIA race regulations.
Both Ferrari and Mercedes have been searching for ways to run their cars lower and lower in an effort to increase the downforce from the ground effect low pressure under the floor.
Yet both have been hauled in front of the stewards for breaches in ride height rules discovered by Baur long after the race.
However, both of these results are now under threat with Hamilton and Leclerc booked in for trips to the stewards over plank wear investigations. If the pair are found to have breached the technical regulations then they will likely face disqualification.
Ride height too low
The technical regulations on this matter dictate: “The thickness of the plank assembly measured normal to the lower surface must be 10mm ± 0.2mm and must be uniform when new.
“A minimum thickness of 9mm will be accepted due to wear, and conformity to this provision will be checked at the peripheries of the designated holes.”
Following the standard FIA post race investigation of the cars FIA representative Joe Baur confirmed both the Mercedes of Hamilton and the Ferrari of Leclerc were “found to not be in compliance” with the article in question.
The result of there impending stewards hearing will not be finalised until long after most Europeans are fast asleep. But the bad news for Hamilton and Leclerc just as pit lane speeding is a fairly slam dunk referral to the stewards, so is the underfloor plank measurements made following the race.
Sargeant’s first point???
If both drivers are disqualified then Hamilton’s word’s about a “great team effort” will appear hollow and ironic at the same time.
Of course Leclerc’s team ate would then be credited with another P3 podium place but more importantly the ailing Logan Sargeamt would then be promoted to P10 and score the first points of his rookie season in F1.
The other result will be that the gap between Hamilton and Sergio perez for P2 in the drivers championship will grow rather than shrink.
Peer is currently 19 points ahead of Hamilton but following a disqualification this will become a pretty insurmountable 42 with four races to go.
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