Lewis Hamilton doubles down over claims ‘a lot of other cars were illegal’ in Austin

Michelle Foster
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton lapping COTA in his upgraded W14.

Lewis Hamilton doubles down on ''a lot of other cars were illegal' in Austin

Disqualified from the United States GP along with Charles Leclerc for failing a post-race plank inspection, Lewis Hamilton says he’s heard from various sources that “a lot of other cars were illegal”.

Four cars were chosen for the usual post-race inspection after the Austin Grand Prix with 50 percent of those – Hamilton’s W14 and Leclerc’s SF-23 – failing the plank part of the tests.

Both cars’ planks were found to be less than the mandated 9mm thus leading to the drivers’ disqualifications under Article 3.5.9 e) of the 2023 Formula 1 technical regulations.

Lewis Hamilton believes other cars were ‘also illegal’

This section reads: “The thickness of the plank assembly measured normal to the lower surface must be 10mm [plus or minus] 0.2mm and must be uniform when new. A minimum thickness of 9mm will be accepted due to wear.”

But what has baffled many a pundit and fan is if the FIA found 50 percent of the cars tested to be in breach of the regulations why weren’t other cars tested.

Because according to Hamilton, a fair number of them would also have been illegal.

“I’ve heard from several different sources that there were a lot of other cars that were also illegal,” he told the media in the build-up to the Mexican Grand Prix weekend. “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.”

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Lewis Hamilton denies Mercedes tried to run a low ride height

The seven-time World Champion revealed Mercedes had never experienced the plank issue before Austin with the driver pointing to the Sprint format with just practice hour as one of the likely factors along with the Circuit of the America’s bumps.

“We’ve never had that problem in Austin before,” he said. “It was just because we had the Sprint race as well, so an easy solution, an easy fix for that one, for example, is that we are able to change the floors after the… Well, just approach the weekend differently, where the car is not set already from Friday morning.

“Especially at the bumpiest track that we’ve been on, because that’s really the only reason that there are failures, it’s just because it’s so bumpy, and some cars have better ride quality than others. Look at the Ferrari, look at Charles’ head and my head.

“We have pretty bad ride, and our heads are bumping around quite a lot because the car is hitting the deck. It’s not because we generally are just pushing the car too low.”

He refuted suggestions Mercedes had tried to run the car with a very low ride height to gain downforce and performance.

“No, I think firstly we need to just address the point that last year, our car was best when it was low, super low,” he said.

“So we were low and stiff. Our car works better at high ride heights now. So it’s not that we’re just pushing the car too low.

“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.

“So that’s why it’s just been painful for us. Because, you know, if we had changed our rear springs, for example, perhaps we would have had a better ride.

“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.”

Read next: ‘I might have been illegal myself!’ – Drivers weigh in on US GP plank checks controversy