United States Grand Prix – Hours after the race finished, Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were disqualified from the results after technical inspections.
Leclerc, who had started on pole, took the chequered flag in P6 after Ferrari’s one-stop strategy didn’t work out and the Monegasque driver had to allow his teammate through towards the end before then also losing out to Sergio Perez.
Hamilton meanwhile had taken his sixth podium of the season in the race and had Mercedes’ best chance at a win all year after closing down on Max Verstappen in the final few laps but just ran out of time. He finished in P2 just 2.2 seconds behind the Red Bull driver.
About an hour and a half after the race however the Stewards received a report from the Technical Delegate, Jo Bauer, where he stated that during post-race scrutineering the plank on both Leclerc and Hamilton’s cars was found to not be in compliance with the regulations.
The regulation mentioned – Article 3.5.9 e) – states that “The thickness of the plank assembly measured normal to the lower surface must be 10mm ± 0.2mm and must be uniform when new. A minimum thickness of 9mm will be accepted due to wear, and conformity to this provision will be checked at the peripheries of the designated holes.”
Due to the amount of tests that need to be completed, some checks are only performed on a random selection of cars and in this case, the floor and plank were only inspected on the polesitter and podium finishers – Leclerc, Verstappen, Hamilton and Lando Norris.
The Stewards met with team representatives from Mercedes and Ferrari, along with the Technical Delegate, the FIA Single Seater Director and the FIA Single Seater Technical
Director. While the teams explained that the Sprint weekend format which gives only one practice session, and the fact that car setup for the rest of weekend had to be decided on before they went into parc ferme conditions at the start of qualifying on Friday night meant there wasn’t time to properly calculate ride heights.
The Stewards felt though that it is the team’s responsibility to ensure their car is legal and there is an allowance for wear in the regulations but that even with that they were outside the limit.
The decision read:
“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 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.”
The teams were understandably disappointed with the disqualifications Diego Ioverno, Ferrari Sporting Director, commenting that “Our car was below the minimum threshold by a few tenths [of a millimetre], but enough to bring the stewards to consider [our car] illegal.
“We knew it would have been tricky [with the ride height] and this is the reason why we also lifted the car throughout FP1 – and from our consideration, it should have been okay. As a matter of fact, it turned out that we were anyhow too marginal, and also because of the wind that changed direction and had a stronger intensity than what was forecasted, this brought our car to not be legal at the end.”
While Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, Andrew Shovlin, said: “Unfortunately, it is one of the pitfalls of the Sprint format where we have a solitary hour of running before parc ferme.
“Without running at a race fuel load in FP1, combined with a circuit as bumpy as this and the parts of the track where the drivers have to put the car during the Grand Prix, have contributed to the higher than expected wear levels. We will go away and learn from this but also take the positives from our experience as a whole.”
The disqualifications mean that Norris would now be classified P2 ahead of Carlos Sainz. Perez would be P4 with George Russell P5. Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda moved up to P6-P8 and that allowed the two Williams drivers to take P9 and P10.
The new classification would mean that tenth placed Logan Sargeant would not only get his first F1 points at a race in the US but he would be the first American to score points in the series since Michael Andretti in 1993.