Mercedes and Ferrari believe the lack of preparation time and bumpy COTA track surface played its part in Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc being disqualified from the US Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton and Leclerc were both disqualified after FIA scrutineering found their cars in breach of 3.5.9 e) of the Technical Regulations post-race in Austin, which governs plank wear.
The wooden plank underneath the car is only allowed to wear by 1mm throughout the course of the race, but with Hamilton and Leclerc’s cars having failed that requirement, both drivers were disqualified after the race.
Mercedes and Ferrari put disqualification down to same reasons at COTA
Hamilton lost a second place finish and Leclerc a P6 placing from Austin on Sunday after the FIA found their plank wear to fall outside the accepted limit.
This limit is put in place as, due to ground effect aerodynamics performing better when cars run close to the ground, there could be performance benefit found in cars that look to run as near to the track surface as possible as often as possible – with plank wear a sign of the car bottoming out too often.
In meeting with the FIA before disqualification, both Ferrari and Mercedes representatives explained that the bumps on the track at the Circuit of The Americas make a particularly unique challenge for the drivers to navigate, along with only one hour of practice for a sprint weekend compared to the usual three.
“During the hearing the team acknowledged that the measurement performed by the FIA Technical Team was correct and stated that the high wear on the skid pads was probably a result of the unique combination of the bumpy track and the Sprint race schedule that minimized the time to set up and check the car before the race,” the verdict from the stewards explained, in exactly the same wording for both Hamilton and Leclerc.
But in response, they added that keeping within the regulations is on the responsibility of the teams, and falling outside them usually results in one punishment in this scenario.
“The Stewards note that the onus is on the competitor to ensure that the car is in compliance with the regulations at all times during an event.
“In this particular case, the rear skid in the area defined in the Technical Delegate’s report was outside of the thresholds outlined in Article 3.5.9 e) of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations, which includes a tolerance for wear.
“Therefore, the standard penalty for a breach of the Technical Regulations is imposed.”
Leclerc and Hamilton were two of four drivers who had their cars’ planks placed under FIA scrutineering after the race, with Lando Norris and Max Verstappen coming within acceptable levels of wear.