FIA address Lewis Hamilton conspiracy theories with legality check information

Mark Scott
Lewis Hamilton in action at the US Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W14.

The FIA has issued a timely explainer on how post-session checks are carried out on F1 cars in the interests of fairness and legality.

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were recently disqualified from the United States Grand Prix after their cars were found to be illegal due to an excessive amount of plank wear following random post-race checks.

This shock development added fuel to the fire that the FIA are specifically targeting seven-time World Champion Hamilton, having also recently re-opened a case from the Qatar Grand Prix where Hamilton was already heavily fined for walking across a live track following a first-corner crash with Mercedes team-mate George Russell. The FIA’s handling of the hugely controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi season finale is still very much part of conversation, too.

FIA: Any car can be checked at any time

Throughout the F1 2023 season, the FIA has posted handy information guides as part of their ongoing ‘Insights’ series and, following a fresh wave of accusations, have looked to indirectly address those claims via this feature.

The FIA acknowledged that their post-race scrutineering process had been ‘under the spotlight’ following the DSQs of Hamilton and Leclerc, but made it clear from the outset that random post-race checks have been part of their procedure for ‘many decades’ and ‘exists to ensure compliance with the regulations by virtue of the fact that the teams do not know before the race which specific areas of which cars might be examined beyond the standard checks carried out on every car each weekend.

‘This means that, from their perspective, any part of the car could be checked at any time, and the consequences for non-compliance with the Technical Regulations can be severe.’

Hamilton and Leclerc were part of a four-car random spot check following the United States Grand Prix with the cars of Max Verstappen and Lando Norris both found to be in compliance with the regulations.

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However, a very valid question was raised by many, including Sky F1’s Martin Brundle, in the aftermath of the investigation, that being if 50% of the sample size were found to be in breach of the FIA regulations then surely that is strong enough ground to warrant a more widespread investigation to check all other cars that finished the race.

The FIA has addressed this, too, and their explanation is that time isn’t on their side.

The report continued: ‘In conducting these tests, a huge amount of work goes on in the limited time available after a Grand Prix finishes and before the cars need to be returned to their teams for disassembly and transportation to the next race.

‘However, even though a wide array of checks are made, it is impossible to cover every parameter of every car in the short time available – and this is especially true of back-to-back race weekends when freight deadlines must also be considered.

‘This is why the process of randomly selecting a number of cars for post-race scrutineering across various aspects of the regulations is so valuable. Each team is aware that selection is possible and understand that the chance of any lack of compliance being uncovered is strong.’

The FIA also made it clear that car checks are not just strictly limited to post-qualifying or post-race sessions.

‘The FIA also conducts additional examinations between qualifying and the race, and as well as the number of cars selected for post-race checks, at least one is selected for even more detailed analysis on internal components,’ F1’s governing body explained.

‘These ‘deep dives’ are invasive and often require the disassembly of significant components that are not regularly checked due to the time it takes to carry out the procedure.’

The FIA concluded the article with a final defence of their scrutineering process in a move to reassure F1 fans far and wide that the sport is being policed fairly.

‘As with everything in Formula 1, the process has evolved and been refined over the years to constitute the most stringent and thorough method of monitoring F1’s incredibly complex current-generation cars, acting as a serious deterrent while being practically achievable within the logistical framework of a Grand Prix weekend.’

Mercedes have accepted full responsibility for Lewis Hamilton’s car failing post-race checks in Austin, leaving the team “embarrassed” and “hurt” by the fact that they were unable to comply with the regulations on this very rare occasion.

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