The 2023 US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas was a rollercoaster ride for Mercedes, culminating in the stunning disqualification of Lewis Hamilton hours after the chequered flag had been waved.
Along with Hamilton, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was also disqualified after post-race inspections revealed that the wooden planks under their cars did not meet the required FIA standards having been worn down excessively indicating the car running too low to the ground.
Questionable floor upgrade
While it is not yet definitively clear whether Mercedes’ new floor upgrade was the direct cause of Hamilton’s disqualification, team principal Toto Wolff seemed to imply that it was a contributing factor.
“Setting up a car with new upgrades is difficult with only one practice session on a sprint weekend,” said Wolff. Prior to the disqualification, Hamilton had finished a strong second, only to have it overturned and his place taken by McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Wolff admits mistake
Speaking to the media after the disqualification, Wolff was open and honest. “Set-up decisions on a sprint weekend are always a challenge with only one hour of free practice – especially on a bumpy track like COTA with a new package,” explained Wolff.
“But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter – other teams have got it right where we have gone wrong. The rules are clear and uncompromising; there is no room for error.
“We have to absorb the blow, learn our lesson and aim to come back stronger for the next race…”
Hamilton remains positive
Despite the disappointing result, Lewis Hamilton remained optimistic. “Obviously it’s a disappointment to be disqualified after the fact, but we can’t overlook the progress we made over the weekend,” said Hamilton.
The seven-time world champion was keen to emphasise the team’s forward momentum, perhaps suggesting that while this was a setback, it was only a bump on the road to future success.
While the disqualification has immediate implications for the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships, it also places additional scrutiny on F1’s regulatory mechanisms and the challenges teams face in implementing new upgrades.
Given the ever-evolving nature of F1 technology, it is a complex juggling act to stay within the strict parameters of FIA regulations while striving to improve performance.
As the Formula One circus prepares to move on, Mercedes will no doubt be reviewing its internal procedures and decision-making matrix when it comes to last-minute car upgrades. For now, the team must regroup, reassess and rebound, trying to turn this bitter experience into a catalyst for future triumphs.
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