F1 drivers discuss about all cars checking post the US GP disqualification where it is just an unfortunate situation where only handful are checked.
The post-race random checks came in question after the US GP disqualification of both Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc, while Max Verstappen and Lando Norris were safe. Only four cars were checked as is the case at several events with such checks.
Considering the back-to-back weekends and also the general lack of time to check all the 20 cars for everything, the FIA selects cars randomly and perform those extensive analysis. All the 10 F1 teams know about this and have agreed to the regulations too.
But considering the track surface in US GP and it being a sprint weekend, the F1 drivers are certain that there were more cars whose plank would have been deemed illegal. And no one has one clear solution to this problem as it can be anyone in the next grand prix.
Here’s what the F1 drivers feel regarding the situation –
Lewis Hamilton: “I just came out of the press conference, got back, and I was about to get in the ice tub. And then Toto came running down and told me. Obviously, I was devastated as it had been such a great day and great race. But yeah, and then I didn’t find out fully until I was back home. Yeah, just a bit deflated after the day, but there were lots of positives to take from it. Firstly I’ve heard from several different sources that there were a lot of other cars that were also illegal. 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. We’ve never had that problem in Austin before. 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. I think firstly we need to just address the point that last year, our car was best when it was low, super low. 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 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.”
Charles Leclerc: “It was a complete surprise. Because on Friday, when we could change the car, there was zero wear – it’s not like we were touching anywhere. Then you get to the race and obviously things had changed, but we were illegal. Rules are rules and they need to be respected whatever, so it’s no excuse to say that Friday we were fine. We need to look into it to try and better anticipate what’s going to be the wear on Sunday. There are so many more things. There’s also kerb riding, there’s different things, but kerb riding also is a thing. But at the end, yes, we should’ve anticipated better and we’ll look into it for the future. I was surprised because, again, also on the Saturday night, we could see more or less where we were touching and we thought there was still plenty of margin. Then we finished on Sunday and it was a big surprise, so we are still in the analysing part of where exactly did we wear the plank more than what we expected – because it wasn’t expected.”
Max Verstappen: “I don’t think anyone does it on purpose. It’s just even more because of this sprint format that you only have one practice session where you try to nail everything and once you are in the wrong, there’s nothing you can do. I think we should just get rid of the sprint weekend and then everyone can just set up their cars normally, because it wouldn’t have happened on a normal race weekend. These things only happen when you have a sprint weekend where everything is so rushed in between FP1 and qualifying and you think: ‘Hmm, we might be okay’. On our side, we were a bit too conservative but that is still better than the other way. The only thing you can do is pump up the tyre pressures, but then you’re driving around on balloon tyres. So it’s of course not what you want to see, I guess also for them, as a team.
“Of course we know that dropping the car, it gives you performance, but I think it’s also just because of that whole format that you put yourself in this position, because normally I don’t think anyone in a normal weekend would run like that. Then you only get the race result on Tuesday if you check every car. The problem is that it’s just impossible to check everything. But the thought process from every team is no one wants to be illegal, so no one sets up their car to be illegal. Then, of course, you have these random checks that get carried out and sometimes it’s the top four, sometimes it’s in the middle of the field, the back, that’s just how it goes, you can’t check every car for every single part of the car, otherwise we need 100 more people to do this kind of thing. I think when you check one car of the team and it’s illegal, then I think you should check the other one as well. That’s for me, the only thing. Because otherwise you DQ one, then the other one moves up one position where normally you always run quite similar set-ups.”
Nico Hulkenberg: “Or I might have been illegal myself! You never know. Obviously these cars are incredibly sensitive to the ride height. The lower you get, the more downforce you get, that’s the constant fight we have, and we need to find the right balance. I think Austin is a bit specific with the bumpiness and also with a lot of apex and exit kerbs where you can run them quite aggressively – but you do use the plank and wear down those shims a lot, so maybe there is something to be to be looked at in a different way. Yeah.
Pierre Gasly: “I think there’s a couple of things which we could do to improve what’s happened in Austin. I think starting with the Sprint weekend when we’ve got only the FP1 session on such a track. You’re doing 15 laps with quite a low amount of fuel in the car. So, to get a gauge of what you’re going to get for the next 70 laps, with two Qualifyings, a Sprint race, a complete Grand Prix of 59 laps, with a lot of fuel. You’re going pretty much blind after FP1 with very few informations on where to base yourself. So, I think it’s a tricky thing. Probably we can improve that process giving us more time to readjust if needed. I just remember my karting days, where you know, all top three cars were always checked. Whenever you finish on the podium, you should be checked every single time, and then on top of that, there could be random checks as well, running down the order. But yeah, I think it’s been always from the past, only in F1, where it’s not a standard to check all top three cars. But it was tricky, and I think the Sprint format made it even more even more tricky, considering we have a very short amount of time to set the car up.
Alexander Albon: “Same as Pierre and Nico. I don’t think there’s too much to add. I think, as Pierre touched on, what the teams have in terms of data and information to set the ride heights for the weekend is very marginal, there’s not even really enough time to fill the cars up in FP1, just to get a feel for where they need to be. But on the same side, I do think, maybe you don’t need to check every car, every race all the time. But, you know, if there’s one, one driver in one team illegal, there’s a very, very high chance that the other car, the teammate of that driver, is going to be illegal as well. So I don’t know how much it would take to check a couple more cars, but I don’t think that would be such an issue. But I don’t know, I’m not a scrutineer.”
Esteban Ocon: “Yeah, I’m rejoining these guys. I think it is an extremely difficult exercise. Just to be guessing, you know, what your ride height has to be. There is a risk and reward, obviously, in that, sort of, exercise – that if you get the car lower you get more performance, but you know, it’s at the risk of are you going to be illegal with your plank. Yeah, I mean, we’ve seen cars changing set-up throughout the weekends because of those things. And yeah, it is just too short in FP1 really to set your car up. So yeah, I’m sure it’s not the first time that there were cars illegal like that on such weekends or such a Sprint weekend. I think on normal format, it’s a lot less likely to happen. But yeah, I’m sure on the other races there was as well.”
Yuki Tsynoda: “Yeah, pretty much aligned to everyone. But we got a prize from the previous race. So, so far, I don’t have to change I think.”
George Russell: “I think it’s a very different layout here. Obviously, with the one session in Austin, we did all of the standard checks after FP1 and the plank looked absolutely fine. So there was no reason after the practice session to make any changes, but obviously we got that very wrong. I expect the nature of this circuit to be naturally more conservative and with the three practice sessions, I don’t foresee any issues there.”
Here’s more from Mercedes on the findings
Here’s Mercedes, Ferrari reacting to DQ
Here’s what the FIA said about the DQ
Here’s link to a F1 Discord channel, join in to interact