Lewis Hamilton was disqualified from his second place finish at the 2023 US Grand Prix in Austin Texas. The FIA technical delegates reported his car to the stewards for excessive wear of the plank under the floor which monitors ride height.
As it is with pit lane speeding, thee things are4 usually cut and dry and the plank underneath car number 44 was indeed outside the minimum allowed thickness which proved Mercedes had run their car too low.
FIA use of sample testing is normative
The lower the modern day F1 cars can be run means performance is improved and in 2022 Mercedes ran their cars so low that their drivers were deemed to be at risk of permanent health damage due to the excessive bouncing this setup produced.
Te scrutineering process in Formula One is more stringent than it has ever been, however given resource constrictions the FIA technical officers cannot examine every single car for potential breaches of the sporting regulations.
In the real world corporations are audited by independent financial experts who deliver a opinion on whether the annual financial results are indeed accurate, true and fair.
However, not every single invoice is examined in this process and it is commonly accepted practice that a sample of invoices is taken and the risk of improper reporting is then extrapolated.
Cars randomly tested
Formula One uses a similar process for checking the cars. The drivers in podium positions are automatically scrutinised for any violations much as the Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners in athletic are drug tested.
The FIA then same a number of other cars randomly to see if they are compliant and if there is any common denominator making even more cars illegal.
At the press conference in Mexico this weekend, Lewis Hamilton came out punching following his disqualification a week ago in Austin. He claimed he was “devastated” to learn that he had lost his second-place finish behind Red Bull champion Max Verstappen.
Hamilton then waxed lyrical over the improper procedures taken by the FIA and accused them failing to punish every driver whose car was being run at a too low ride height.
Hamilton accuses FIA
“Firstly I’ve heard from several different sources that there were a lot of other cars that were also illegal,” he said.
“But they weren’t tested, so they got away with it. I’ve been racing here 16 years, there’s been times where there’s been many other scenarios like this where some people got away with certain things, and some people have just been unlucky they got tested.
“So I think ultimately there probably needs to be some sort of better structure in terms of making sure it’s fair and even across the board.”
Yet simply, the FIA do not have the resource to examine all 24 cars after the race for each of the potential regulation breaches.
Mercedes were pushing the limits
Hamilton went on to deny that Mercedes had been deliberately trying to cheat and the height of the car during the Grand Prix with full fuel loads was unforeseen.
“It was just an unfortunate scenario. 0.05 (mm) failure on the rear skid, it’s not going to make the difference between winning and losing. So that error wasn’t the reason that we were as fast as were,” he said.
“But anyways, we’re hopeful that the performance will continue this weekend. And yeah, just making sure that guys don’t overreact. I think we’ll be fine.”
In the cold light of day, Lewis Hamilton’s assertion that others should have bee penalised is unsubstantiated, but in reality it would have had little effect anyway given those selected for scrutiny included the race winner and his team mate Sergio Perez.
Charles Leclerc was also disqualified for the same offence, yet the Ferrari driver was more phlegmatic over his own penalty than Hamilton.
Leclerc: “Rules are rules”
The Monegasque claimed the stewards decision to disqualify him from 6th place came as a “complete surprise” for Ferrari. Leclerc also revealed the Friday practice session had not indicated to the team that there could be a problem once full fuel loads were added for the Grand Prix.
“Then you get to the race and obviously, things haven’t changed, but we were illegal,” he said.
“Rules are rules, and they need to be respected, so it’s not an excuse to say that on Friday we were fine. We need to look into it to try and better anticipate what is going to be the wear.”
Verstappen: ‘Mercedes too aggresive’
When Max Verstappen was questioned over the stewards decisions to disqualify, he had this to say.
“But you have to take into account Austin, with the bumps and the Sprint format, after one practice session you have to setup the car, and it’s a bit more of a hit and miss.
“From our side I think we went too conservative, too safe, and they clearly went too aggressive. That’s how they of course got excluded. We know that when we drop the car you gain performance, but with all these big bumps around here you have to be a bit careful.
“Looking back at the weekend, we were probably not at our strongest for those kinds of reasons. So, it’s a bit difficult to say. For sure from the beginning of the year to now, the teams behind us have been catching up, for sure, but how much?
Top 6 cars were tested
“It’s also every weekend seems a bit different, sometimes they are closer, sometimes they are further away, and like I said next year impossible to comment on.”
Hamilton does not clearly understand the sample process used by the FIA to scrutinise an F1 car and deem it legal or not. It is impossible for all the cars to be scrutinised to the nth degree.
Yet Given the top six were indeed checked to the same standard as Mercedes car number 44, Lewis can have no complaint because all the major scoring positions were analysed.
Mercedes once again proved they are pushing the boundaries to the extreme, but in doing to the team has again failed to grasp the desperate need for a bottom up design for their 2024 car.