How Mercedes and Ferrari were floored by the same critical error in Austin

Formula 1

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With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not difficult to see why this year’s United States Grand Prix was likely to catch teams out when it came to complying with Formula 1’s plank wear regulations.

The combination of an extremely bumpy circuit by F1 standards, one which seems to yield new undulations every time the championship visits, and the first sprint race weekend to be held at the venue, presented a challenge which caught out two teams with entirely different cars.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc lost second and sixth places respectively as a result. According to the stewards, both teams agreed 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 minimised the time to set up and check the car before the race.”

The plank gives the FIA an effective way of ensuring teams do not run their cars so low to the ground they might compromise driver safety. The lower a car runs, the more they risk wearing the plank. The rules state it must meet a minimum thickness at the end of the race or risk disqualification – which is what happened on Sunday in Austin.

F1’s rules have mandated the planks since the middle of the 1994 season. But the devices took on an added significance when the series introduced new technical regulations last year and gave teams greater freedom to use the undersides of their cars to generate downforce.

Teams have long known that the lower a car runs to the ground, the more downforce can be created. The FIA revised aspects of its plank wear rules last year in a bid to ensure they remained effective under the new regulations.

Now the rules have caught out two teams, costing one a podium finish.

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A bumpy track like the Circuit of the Americas was always going to present a greater challenge for teams to stay on top of their plank wear for obvious reasons. The bigger and more frequent the bumps a car encounters, the more likely it is to touch the track surface with its floor.

Hamilton lost second, Leclerc sixth, after both were disqualified
The sprint race format complicates matters further as teams only have a single hour of practice, instead of three separate hours, to fine tune their cars set-ups. Once qualifying began on Friday evening they were locked into their ride heights and other suspension settings that influence plank wear. On top of that, from the beginning of qualifying for the grand prix, which takes place 24 hours earlier than usual, the wear on the planks has more time to accumulate across the pair of qualifying sessions and two races.

All teams faced the same challenge. Alfa Romeo took a more conservative approach, said Valtteri Bottas. “The bumpiness of the track also played a factor in our performance, as we had to run our car slightly higher than we wanted and thus sacrificed some downforce, which did not allow us to extract the most from our upgrades,” he said.

The limited running available under the sprint race format exacerbated the problem, explained Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack. “You don’t know, that’s a problem. You need the laps.

“The problem is you need the laps with DRS on, with DRS off, high fuel, low fuel. You need to check, you do all that homework.

“Then if you don’t have these laps, what choice do you have? At the same time, the driver is telling you it’s more bumpy than it has ever been. This is how we then go into qualifying and you have to make a choice.”

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Judging the correct set-up was especially difficult for Krack’s team as their practice session was compromised by brake problems which meant neither driver completed as many laps as planned.

“This is one of the issues that you have in the sprint weekend,” he said. “Even if you have the full session you know that you have to do a sprint and you have to do the full race plus two qualifying [sessions] and you wear one millimetre and you have to run low, so it’s tough. So everybody tries to build models and stuff like that, but you always have a race risk.”

Aston Martin eventually took the decision to take their cars out of F1’s parc ferme set-up restrictions before the grand prix and accept they would have to start from the pit lane. That meant they were able to fine-tune their set-up more accurately. Haas made the same call.

They weren’t the first teams to do so this year. Alpine experienced a similar scenario when they brought new floors for their A523s to the first sprint race weekend of the year in Azerbaijan. Their first practice session was disrupted, so they resorted to taking their cars out of parc ferme.

Mercedes also had a new floor for their W14s in Austin, which Hamilton felt improved its performance. However after the FIA’s decision to disqualify their top finisher was handed down, costing Hamilton his most competitive finish of the year, they accepted they had got it wrong.

Their experience – and Ferrari’s – will serve as a warning for the others. And the team mates of the two disqualified drivers must consider themselves fortunate their cars were not selected to be checked. Only two others were – those of race winner Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, who was promoted to second by Hamilton’s disqualification.

Which begs the question: If half of the four cars checked were found not to comply, what might the outcome have been had all 17 finishers had their planks inspected?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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79 comments on “How Mercedes and Ferrari were floored by the same critical error in Austin”

  1. Which begs the question: If half of the four cars checked were found not to comply, what might the outcome have been had all 17 finishers had their planks inspected?

    Very much this.

    1. Ooops.. posted prematurely.

      I meant to add that whilst more random issues could be considered ‘unlucky’ to be discovered in post race checks, I struggle to understand why the discovery of high plank wear did not prompt a wider inspection.

      1. Yes. This is absolutely ridiculous. I am surprised the whole grid is not checked for this.

      2. Totally agree. I always assumed every car went through the same post race checks. It just seems absurd that they pick a few cars at random to check. Excessive plank wear is such a rare occurence these days that when two different teams out of a sample of four have this problem, you really have to ask why and check more. For instance, we might have found that if they’d checked the rest, Williams could have been up there in P4 for all we know.

      3. There is a time limit on the FIA to inform a team they want to inspect the cars – otherwise the FIA could keep selecting cars and checking things all night, when the teams already need to be packing up the cars to get them on their way to Mexico.
        There is just far too much that CAN be checked, so if there aren’t any indications a specific car might not comply (for example from seeing footage of a wing super flexing), they just have to pick some of the cars to go through in more detail.

        Just as in most other sports, the authorities select several of the competitors for post race scrutineering (doping tests for the top finishers comes to mind). Here they opted to test the cars on the podium + the pole sitter. That seems sensible to me.

        1. Wow a considered, well thought out and I formed comment.
          Pretty rare to see one of those, typically people just form their opinions based on a headline and the little to no knowledge they have if the process.
          Thank you @bascb

    2. Billy Rae Flop
      23rd October 2023, 6:04

      Rules are rules but we’ll only check some cars for compliance. Well done on common sense. It would be right to check all after 2 cars from two teams failing, also knowing the nature of the track this weekend. What a joke.

      1. yeah, they didnt bother with track limits and if they looked at all the floors, more than half the grid would have been disqualified. the FIA has no credibility until it applies the rules equally.

      2. whose bright idea was it to have sprints on a notoriously bumpy track…. with only one hour of practice what did they expect?

    3. Same result as the 2005 USGP…

      1. Both Hamilton and LeClerc disqualified from 2005 USGP?

  2. This might’ve well been a systemic issue in which multiple drivers from multiple teams breached the regulations. Which begs the question, why were only 2 drivers singled out?

    My suggestion – in the name of fairness, the FIA should tighten up the regulations, such that if it was discovered more than 1 car from 2 different teams fall foul of a given regulation, all cars up and down the grid should be inspected and face the appropriate penalty.

    But that begs the question, what if more than half the field is disqualified? Will the FIA reverse the disqualification due to extenuating circumstances?

    1. Jonathan Parkin
      23rd October 2023, 13:19

      I remember back in Brazil 2000 there were six cars under investigation for a worn plank and the media at the time did debate whether the FIA would disqualify six cars. In the end only DC lost his second place, but not due to a plank, because of his front wing

    2. Ot was not 2 drivers, they cheched verstappens car and norris’ car too , those were found legal

      1. That’s not what they said. There was a 50% failure rate.

  3. Which begs the question: If half of the four cars checked were found not to comply, what might the outcome have been had all 17 finishers had their planks inspected?

    Agree with the above comments on this. Even if you end up with half the field DSQ’d for it and the sport ends up looking silly as a result, it seems right and proper to go further and test everyone if the random check has such a high failure rate.

    1. Where a car fails they should at least check the sister car.

      Also I would include a self reporting clause for cars not being checked by FIA. Many (including I) doubt it will work, but it creates other storylines like spygate and Massa’s 15 years belated title fight.

  4. The plank gives the FIA an effective way of ensuring teams do not run their cars so low to the ground they might compromise driver safety.

    Sorry, but this isn’t quite true. Only 4 cars, the first 3 plus one other, are checked by the very diligent Stewards. They ignore everyone else.

    1. It’s not the stewards, but the FIA technical delegate who selects several of the cars for post race scrutineering and then informs the Stewards of any issues they find. It’s perfectly normal that they select only some cars, picking the cars that finished on the podium + the pole sitter seems fully logical. Compare it to doing post race doping tests in other sports, they often pick the podium and a random few extra for that too.

      1. Bas, I don’t think it is the same as doping checks. In those cases, they are checking for athletes deliberately cheating and the chances that you will be caught with a potential two year ban is a big deterrant to taking them. The plank case is different. No-one intentionally runs their car too low and hopes they’ll get away with it especially if they are competing for a podium and stand a high chance of being checked. It is a technical error rather than deliberate cheating so random testing isn’t a deterrant.

        1. No-one intentionally runs their car too low and hopes they’ll get away with it…

          I’m sorry, are you new to Formula One?

    2. Surely, if the routine is to inspect the top three or four, then when an event occurs that puts the P4, 5, 6, 7 up into those four slots then they too need to be inspected?
      I did enjoy the race, though, not really knowing who was going to be on the podium in any position for most of the race was something I’d wanted to see for ite some while. As a Hamilton fan, even Lewis cruising to yet another victory isn’t that interesting.

      On a different note, I particularly enjoyed the demonstration that the “new, calmer Max” doesn’t exist. The moment the pressure started to apply, the language descended to the gutter.

      1. I don’t really get why people whine so much about Max. There are drivers with all kinds of personalities and behaviors on the grid. You can surely find a driver to your liking.

        It’s pretty intolerant to not accept that there are drivers that may not appeal to you. You don’t have to comment about it all the time.

      2. Steve, I agree. I thought there were some checks that could easily be applied to all cars finishing, namely: checking the weight of the car, taking the fuel sample for sending off to the lab spectrometer, checking that the car passes through a width and height gague, and checking the underside of the car for plank damage.

        The plank could borrow the wear detection ideas from the tyres and brake pads of domestic cars. The plank could consist of a 9mm base layer in red material, with a second layer in say, blue. If, after the race, any red is visible anywhere on the plank, then it must have worn excessively and needs further inspection to determine if the wear is accident damage or excessive grounding. A higher tech solution would be to sandwich a copper wire filament between the layers which can be tested electrically to detect breaks in the wire so they could do the check at the same time as putting the car through the detection gauges. There is no reason why basic checks need to be time consuing.

  5. So glad everyone so far agrees that if 4 cars checked at random is unfair and they should check all cars.

    But if I were Mclaren or any other team finishing behind Sainz and Russell, I’d demand a protest and demand their cars being checked now as well in hope for a few extra points.

    1. But if I were Mclaren or any other team finishing behind Sainz and Russell, I’d demand a protest and demand their cars being checked now as well in hope for a few extra points.

      “I’ll show mine if you show yours…” :)
      A submission of protest should require a “volunteering” to be subjected to the same checks.

      That said, like others, I don’t see why they can’t check all cars in a basic way and do more detailed checks where signs of a breach are noted.

  6. And the team mates of the two disqualified drivers must consider themselves fortunate their cars were not selected to be checked.

    Not just them, all the other 16 drivers who raced that day were fortunate to not have their cars checked because one has to suspect maybe half of those other drivers could have been in breach of the regulations. This raises the question of why this offence was so serious as to potentially warrant disqualifying all 4 drivers whose cars were checked, but then the other 16 were ignored? It seems to me a better option would have been to give the two offending cars time penalties, e.g. 10 seconds.

    1. @drycrust I believe failing the technical regulations always results in disqualification, no matter how small the infringement.

      1. Exactly, there is no other option here – it’s a simple yes or no. Either your car complies and the result stands, or it does not (however little margin) and you are facing DSQ.

      2. And it must be. Otherwise one could simply run illegal cars and take the 10s penalty, still finishibg way higher than with a legal car. Takr russell amd hanulton for example on that

        1. Russells car was not checked. Stick to facts

    2. The 2 cars that did not finish the race would certainly not have had an issue with plank wear @drycrust. And many teams actually cranked up their cars during and after FP1 to avoid exactly this (like the article mentions for Alfa Romeo), both Haas and AM opted to rework their cars, give them a higher ride height and replace parts to make sure they are not too low. None of those would have seen any issues.
      And off course we know that the Red Bull and McLaren team were playing it safe enough to avoid excessive wear (since they had a car each inspected). So it is really a decent estimate to say that the cars that might have been most at risk would be Russel and Sainz.

      1. That’s interesting insight, I don’t like this kind of things and would’ve liked to see a carpet check after 50% of the cars checked failed, but with hamilton and leclerc out I think things have been more or less equalised in terms of merc vs ferrari constructor’s fight, what’s mostly annoying me is that perez is having a terrible season, yet things go his way to get him to 2nd place, hamilton with the points gained this race would’ve had a serious chance to overhaul him by the end of the year, on average.

  7. Robert Henning
    23rd October 2023, 10:41

    Not a mistake but a calculated risk. Using the sprint as an excuse, bumps as an excuse and even wind as an excuse is just pathetic. Tried to run illegal cars to get better performance, get caught and act surprised.

    Which begs the question: If half of the four cars checked were found not to comply, what might the outcome have been had all 17 finishers had their planks inspected?

    We will never know. The FIA picks 4 cars every race and lack the resources and people to check this on every car. Is everyone willing to wait a few hours after the race to get results? The FIA cannot win regardless.

    1. They did not start the event with illegal cars. As I understand it, the teams can start the race with the car at any height they wish. It is the wear on the plank at the end of the race that determines if they were too ambitious with their setup. It is certainly possible, and even likely, that Merc and Ferrari have run their cars at a similar height at smooth (and non-sprint) tracks without issue, and if checked would have been found compliant.

      1. You don’t know that. Max (RedBull) and Noris (McLaren) did not have the issue. They were very competitive all weekend long. So what may cause the issue with Ferrari and MB ? May be running their car illegally close to ground ? May be the real pace and competitiveness of MB and Ferrari is because they are running low which causes this extra wear and tear ?

        1. You don’t know that. Max (RedBull) and Noris (McLaren) did not have the issue. They were very competitive all weekend long. So what may cause the issue with Ferrari and MB ? May be running their car illegally close to ground ?

          Someone will do an analysis, eventually, but I’d say the most likely answer is that Merc/Ferrari are trying to run the car as low as the RBR, but the RBR has some fairly unique anti-dive features in the suspension which mean the plank wear at the detection point is not as bad as with other cars running with the same ride height.
          If I’m right, then the excessive wear on the Merc and Ferrari will be on the front.
          Something that Merc have on the to-do list is reengineering the chassis and suspension for 2024

          1. Steve Selfridge
            25th October 2023, 2:29

            the wear was at the rear skid of both cars per f1.

      2. Also, plank is there to catch cars running illegally low. And this is exactly what happened… And this rule is there to keep cars bottoming out which can cause crazy crashes and injury. If i am not wrong this rule added after Senna crashed…

        1. Cem, actually it was added at that time, but as a result of the fatal crash of Roland Ratzenberger. The problem wasn’t the cars bottoming out, but rather that they could run so close to the ground that they could generate a ton of groundforce and go much faster through a corner, but that meant hitting a bump or a kerb would raise the car slightly, they would get a massive loss of downforce, and the car would lose all traction and ay even become airborne. The plank was introduced as a way of forcing teams to have a minium ride height and to depend more on mechanical grip of the tyres. In the case of Senna’s accident, the safety issue was the wheel ripped off the car striking Senna and causing the fatal injuries, and that led to the introduction of wheel ties, but they both happened at the same time so it is easy to get confused about which was which.

          1. Ferrari and Merc sink to new lows.

  8. Ferrari’s explanation put their miscalculation on lack of practice before locking their set-ups in for the whole weekend. I think it was an unfortunate mistake which is a shame for both drivers. But hey Hamilton always says they win as a team and lose as a team :)

  9. Which begs the question: If half of the four cars checked were found not to comply, what might the outcome have been had all 17 finishers had their planks inspected?

    That’s an interesting point. It would seem that perhaps this situation should have called for inspections of all cars once the problem was discovered… although I also understand that the FIA wouldn’t want to have to DQ half the cars after the race. Better to sweep it under the carpet.

    1. The cars are all fitted with sensors to measure the impact of porpoising, or the Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric as the FIA calls it. While the FIA no longer enforces a limit, because it is not needed, the sensors still work.

      In theory, they could have chosen these four cars based on data available to them which may have suggested the cars were hitting the ground quite often.

      Hopefully a reporter asks them how the selection was made.

      1. They chose the podium finishers plus the pole sitter.

  10. I was traveling all weekend and missed all of the events for this weekend. Was hoping to watch the replays tonight and was avoiding any spoilers but the disqualifications were covered by news sites that don’t normally cover F1. Obviously, no point in watching any of the action from this weekend as Mercedes and Ferrari were running illegal cars, and still couldn’t beat Red Bull. The bigger question is, is it worth watching any of the remaining races? There is no way the Las Vegas track is going to be smooth and probably will be a nightmare for these cars. COTA is the F1 track for the US and they can’t provide a quality track. Fans were annoyed by the track limits affecting the outcome of the competition and now there are DQs affecting the outcome of the competitions. I believe the penalties are correct and need to be applied with track limits and car specifications. But is it really worth spending time to watch a race when the actual outcome is going to be decided later on? Especially with the teams chasing Red Bull needing to cheat to compete?

    1. Jim, if the LV weekend is a “normal” weekend then there shouldn’t be any plank issues. The problem seems to come from only having one session to set up cars, and then having the ride height locked in for the rest of the weekend, so no real opportunity to refine settings. Although the disqualification is black and white, we don’t know how grey the actuality was. It could be that the Ferrari only had 8.9mm of plank left compared to 9.1mm on the Red Bull, or it could be the Ferrari was worn away completely and not a scratch on the Red Bull. We just don’t know, so we don’t really know how much of the competiveness of the Merc and Ferrari came from the illegality. Also keep in mind that the advantage of running low would only manifest once the plank had worn down, but Hamilton’s Merc looked very competitive right from the start, so I wouldn’t dismiss it as being false performance.

      1. we don’t know how grey the actuality was.

        There’s a defined threshold, AlanD. It can only be legal or illegal, there is no grey area.

        Also keep in mind that the advantage of running low would only manifest once the plank had worn down

        Don’t, because that’s not correct.
        The cars were low enough prior to, at the beginning of, and during, the competitive sessions to provide a noticeable performance enhancement – that’s why the teams set the cars up as low as possible such that the planks wore away. Lower is faster.
        However – if you go too low, you risk breaching the regulations on plank wear. All the teams know this, and they also know the characteristics of the circuit.

        And it doesn’t matter in terms of legality if running so low made them faster, slower or made no difference at all. The planks wore too much – they are in breach of the technical regulations.

    2. But is it really worth spending time to watch a race when the actual outcome is going to be decided later on?

      I guess that depends on whether you watch car racing to get the results, or for the actual racing itself.
      If it’s just results you’re after, then you needn’t watch any racing at all. Ever.

    3. People (not just you) is using the word “cheat” way too liberally IMO. Ok 2 cars were found in breach of the tech regulations and were disqualified and rightly so. It does not mean the were necessarily “cheating”, sounds more like they miscalculated. Probably their ride height would have been enough in a less bumpy circuit and they did not have enough time in practice to accurately estimate the plank wear. Other teams decided to play safer and ride higher but Merc and Fezza took too much of a calculated risk.
      The sprint format obviously contributed at least by denying the teams enough test time. I am not so sure about the additional floor plank wear. In Parc Ferme conditions you are allowed to change a damaged part for an identical new one, and I believe a new plank could be substituted for a new one but I do not know if any team did this.
      The other thing, almost everybody is arguing that all cars should have been checked. This is nonsense. Time is finite. The podium plus the pole winners were chosen and that sounds about right. There might be a case for checking also the cars of the flap winner (Yuki’s AT) and of the teammates of the drivers at fault (Carlos’ Fezza and George’s Merc) or maybe a couple more cars chosen at random. But not all, certainly. People have to go home at some point.

      1. In Parc Ferme conditions you are allowed to change a damaged part for an identical new one

        A few people have mentioned this, but none seem to have (correctly) distinguished between wear and damage.

  11. Apparently nobody read the report that stated that they look at “data relating to oscillations plus onboard footage to identify potential non-compliant cars.” Hamilton and Leclerc’s oscillation meters and onboard cameras showed massive bottoming in the corners and triggered the inspection. They tested Verstappen and Norris’s cars to appease you guys, as there was no oscillation issues on their cars or on their onboards.
    This was not cheating, but a consequence of the joke Sprint format that is eventually going to get someone hurt!

    1. JJ, thank you for that useful information on how they identified potentially non-compliant cars. I wasn’t aware of that.

  12. The question I have, that cannot be checked, is would the plank wear have been a problem if it had been a ‘normal’ w/end without a sprint race?
    And if the answer is ‘no’ then it means this race, and the others where there is a sprint, are not equal to the remainder of the season.
    I can only suggest that, as with a normal race, the cars are released from park ferme after the sprint. Or that the whole sprint w/end be rearranged and that race qualifying be moved to after the sprint race.

    1. The plank wear was no problem, other cars managed to get trough it all wihout riding illegally low.

      1. They only checked four out of 17 cars though.

        1. And two of the fastest ones were legal…

      2. But how many were legal?
        You cannot say they were, just because they were not tested.

  13. I always assumed they checked all cars for the plank after each race. Four seems to be a small sample size.

    And I’m not even sure what the criteria was for those four. Okay Top 3 nominal finished were checked, seems logical but then Charles get checked over Sainz who finished higher? Was the fourth car random? Was it Top 3 podium plus polesitter? Top 3 + 1 random from Top 10? Or all four were randomly chosen and it happened to include the Top 3?

    1. No way it was random, that’s way too low likelihood that they happen to be those 4, it’s the top 3 + polesitter.

      1. No, it was not random. The article omits important information and even suggest randomness in its last paragraph. I think it was not intentional (omission of important information regarding this), but non the less it should not happen as most people here are now commenting on something that is not true and discarding the real question: why Mercedes and Ferrari were floored by the same critical error in Austin?

  14. If a random sample of aircraft had a 50% failure rate, the fleet would be grounded for inspection. The FIA needs to add a rule that allows for 100% testing if the failure is this high. With all of the complicating factors of the track conditions, plus the lack of set-up time and the challenges of a sprint weekend, it makes no sense that only 2 cars would be DQ’d.

    1. I think that is something we can all agree on. Regardless of which two cars were disqualified, it is such an unusual fail these days that it ought to have raised questions. I am also wondering now if they check all cars for weight, dimensions, and fuel samples or do those too also only apply to a random selection. There was a time when all cars finishing the race were weighed and measured.

      1. I checked the report they publish online for every race (just checked this one’s race ofc) and a lot of the checks they do seem to be random, 1-2-3-4-10 cars checked per type of check.

  15. The plank gives the FIA an effective way of ensuring teams do not run their cars so low to the ground they might compromise driver safety.

    lol it doesn’t whatsoever. Teams already run a laser height measuring device, we see it as a light pointing down under the nose, FIA could perfectly easily monitor ride height in real time with it, accumulated or whatever, or just measure the vertical accelerations on drivers that they’re actually worried about, instantly for all the cars. There are plenty of vibration sensors and algorithms in industry.

    This plank is a lazy relic that’s pretty hopeless for measuring what they want to know. They’ll probably start thinking about that now, hopefully

  16. This plank is a lazy relic that’s pretty hopeless for measuring what they want to know.

    Actually, it’s perfect for measuring exactly what they want to know – which isn’t ride height.

    1. They can’t measure all the planks, you see. Plus, it doesn’t really tell them about the impact vibration that’s the health risk

      1. That’s what they use other measuring systems for in addition to the plank

  17. They’ll never check all of the cars because you could have a race where everyone is disqualified.

    1. Then they will have to change the rule or methodology, The current process raises too many questions

  18. If the setting is very fine, even slightly lower tyre pressures or increased downforce from a higher atmospheric pressure can have an effect. With the bumpy nature of the track an intense battle for position can also be responsible as you might be forced to take different lines and encounter specific bumps.
    Unlike the case of benneton a several years back where they specifically ground down the plank, a none uniform wear could also indicate contact with the kerbing atimes.
    The FIA has set a very stringent level of wear such that they have to penalise.

  19. Can’t help wondering how much faster the Bulls would have been if they had run as low as Ferrari and Merc. I think Hamilton’s optimism about the car’s “progress” is premature. It seems likely that the true gap is probably as big as ever but RB ran a sub-optimal setup to avoid floor damage. The Mercs and also the McLarens (hello Mr Scrutineer?) were passing cars on the outside of fast turns, whereas the RBs weren’t so there’s clearly a downforce offset there, but RB had the straight line speed to make up for it. I’m sure they knew that and set the car up with exactly that in mind. Barring accidents and breakdowns I really can’t see anyone but Verstappen winning for the rest of the season. He gets some of the credit of course because he’s absolutely trounced his team mate, but seriously, that car is on another level, like it’s an F1 car and everyone else is Formula One-and-a-half.

  20. In a sprint weekend…when you do both races without being able to adjust your car or change the plank, I think Merc and Ferrari should say we will only do the main race and forget the sprint…Also think if they had checked all the cars, we have had 5 cars not disqualified

  21. I have no problem with a car in breach of the rules being disqualified. But it’s the selectiveness of the testing I question. If this is a matter of safety how hard is it really to inspect every car? How many drivers that inherited positions from this disqualification also were in breach?

    They’re not exactly stripping the power unit down for forensic analysis, it’s a simple check for how much an external part has worn down.

  22. I think that sport of this kind should be a serious business. GIVE US DAMN NUMBERS!!! We ought to know what margins have been exceeded and by how much. Can you imagine this situation in soccer after the match you find out that result is 3: 1 instead of 2 : 3. The rules have to be obeyed but a serious sport is transparent as well. Last time time this happened in 1994. SPA and the wear of Schumacher’s car exceeded 1mm.

  23. The saddest thing about this plank foul for Ferrari and Mercedes is that it doesn’t even mean their cars were too low. You could have more ride height and yet more damage depending on your set up and car characteristics—heave rates, rake, df, pressures. Also if your car is higher you are potentially hitting the bumps with more acceleration/force. It could have been they should have gone lower not higher and gave up performance. I’m sure there is a massive complex differential equation for plank wear on the team sharepoint and someone is now staying up late to fix and validate that while getting a pep talk from team principals.

  24. This has all been very interesting and I thank the writer and all of the commenters.

    However . . . .

    I cannot help thinking about The Plank, a classic piece of British comedy featuring Eric Sykes, Arthur Lowe, James Hunt (then current WDC) Frank Windsor and a number of other greats.

    Yes, wear of the plank is a worthwhile topic!

  25. What would the FIA done if all four cars tested had failed the plank wear test?

  26. Gary Anderson’s opinion;-

    “It’s a bit of a red herring to say that Lewis Hamilton gained his performance because of plank wear. I think the Mercedes we saw in Austin is definitely a step forward for him”

    Yep! As a lot of us have commented on.

    But we’ll see at the weekend!!

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