Lewis Hamilton has decried the disqualification of himself and Charles Leclerc from the US Grand Prix as ‘ridiculous’.
The Mercedes driver, who finished second in last weekend’s United States Grand Prix, as well as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in sixth, were both disqualified from the race hours after the chequered flag after the underfloor planks were found to have worn down beyond the tolerated limits.
With just four cars having their planks checked – a car from each of the top four teams in the race – Hamilton believes there were far more cars that would have been found to be illegal had they also had their planks checked for tolerance.
Lewis Hamilton: Every time F1 takes a step forward, something taints it
Speaking with Sky F1, the seven-time World Champion was irate about his disqualification as he flatly denied the lower ride height that triggered his excessive wear had any effect on the performance of his W14.
“There are a lot of people who don’t actually have a true understanding of what effect the skid was having,” he said.
“But basically, that was the first time we’ve had a sprint race there. They only tested a few cars and 50 percent of them got disqualified. There were far more drivers’ cars that were illegal.
“The skid is not a performance element. Of course, if you have a flat surface, everyone’s gonna be pushing the car to be as low as possible.
“But, mostly, some cars handle the bumps better than others. And we’ve had a very stiff and bumpy car for the last two years.
“Ultimately, it failed the regulation and that needs to change. But I think the sport really had such an amazing weekend, such a great turnout, and a great race.
“Every time we take a step forward within the sport, something like that really taints it. We’ve got to do something. Hopefully, they’ll learn a little bit for the future, rather than checking everybody and over 50 per cent of the cars failing, which I would put all my money on that they would have, maybe if we have a sprint race, maybe we should be able to change the skid or the floor, whatever it is, on a Saturday night so suddenly you don’t have this ridiculous kind of event afterwards.”
Lewis Hamilton: One millimetre is not a performance factor
Elaborating on his belief that the tiny difference in ride height did not play a part in the performance level of his car, with which Hamilton powered his way to finish 2.2 seconds behind race winner Max Verstappen, the British driver explained why he felt that way.
“It depends where you have the downforce,” he said.
“So some cars have downforce very low, some gain more at high ride heights. Last year, we were very low and stiff but we were bouncing.
“This year, we generate more downforce at high ride heights. So we actually go for higher but there are some where you have low-speed corners, sometimes it does perform better when it’s a little bit lower.
“But, if you look at our onboard footage of Charles and I, we have the worst ride probably of everyone. So the Ferraris and us, our heads are bumping around quite a lot. That’s the rear just jumping up and down and also riding over these kerbs. Others are also doing those things but, if you look at Max’s head, for example, it’s much smoother, they have a much better ride than us.
“One millimetre was not a performance factor, whether we did what we did. It wasn’t like the floor bowing giving us extra downforce or anything like that. It just was terrible over the kerbs and if we had raised the car a millimetre or half a millimetre whatever it failed by, it wouldn’t have made a difference except for we would have passed the test, but it is what it is.”
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, speaking at the FIA press conference, echoed the sentiment that more cars were likely to have been illegal had they been tested.
“I think it is an extremely difficult exercise just to be guessing what your ride height has to be,” he said.
“There is a risk and reward, obviously, that if you get the car low, you get more performance. But it’s at the risk of being illegal with your plank and yeah, I mean, we’ve seen cars changing setup throughout the weekend because of those things. It is just too short, FP1, to set your car up.
“I’m sure it’s not the first time that there were cars illegal like that on such weekends or at a sprint weekend. I think in a normal format [weekend], it’s a lot less likely to happen. I’m sure at the other races, there was as well.”