Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Circuit of the Americas, 2023

Raising ride height for COTA bumps may have ‘penalised us more’ – Bottas

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In the round-up: Valtteri Bottas says the high ride height required to handle the Circuit of the Americas’ bumps hurt Alfa Romeo’s performances.

In brief

Bottas blames bumps and ride height for Austin struggles

The bumpiness of the Circuit of the Americas meant Formula 1 teams had to raise the ride heights of their cars for the United States Grand Prix to avoid them bottoming out and wearing down the planks, a problem which led to the disqualification of two drivers.

Bottas felt the loss of downforce from bringing the height of the floor higher above the ground severely impacted his team’s ability to compete against their opposition. Bottas qualified 13th and came home 12th in the grand prix.

“We just always felt like we were on the back foot almost against any car today,” he said afterwards. “I think this confirms from yesterday that the pure pace is not there. No matter which tyre compound, we’re just not fast enough.

“My feeling at the moment is it’s quite track-specific, because it is a bumpy track and it means we need to lift the car up. And I feel like for us it’s maybe more penalising than some other cars.”

He said there had been “no improvement” in the bumpiness of the track which drivers have complained about for many years. “It is a characteristics of the track, but for our car it was a bit [too much]”.

Alpine junior Mini tops day one of F3 test

Gabriele Mini was fastest on the first day of FIA Formula 3’s post-season test at Imola. The Prema driver set a 1’30.225 in the last minutes of the afternoon session on Monday, which put him 0.294 seconds ahead of Campos Racing’s Oliver Goethe in second place.

Ferrari junior Dino Beganovic had set the pace in the morning for Prema, while Mini’s running was curtailed by a technical fault. Mari Boya of Campos was denied first place by just 0.02s in that session, with Hitech GP’s Luke Browning in third place after spending most of the morning on top. Sebastian Montoya failed to set any laps.

In the afternoon British Formula 4 champion Louis Sharp was fastest at first, but Alpine junior Mini soon established himself on top and went faster than Beganovic did in the morning. Beganovic ended up in third place, 0.36s slower than Mini, with Boya fourth.

Formula E’s 2024 pre-season gets underway

There are 82 days until the start of the 2024 Formula E season, and testing for the second year of competition using the Gen3 cars begins today at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit.

The championship’s 11 teams will get a three-hour session in the morning (9am-12pm) and one in the afternoon (2pm-5pm), with an identical timetable for Wednesday and Friday’s track action. All teams are obliged to run a ‘rookie’ driver in at least one of the test’s sessions.

Run plans are free to be determined by competitors for the test’s first day, but on Wednesday each car will need to do two race simulations. FE races vary in duration but usually last somewhere between 40 minutes an one hour. The simulations will be key for Maserati’s Jehan Daruvala, who will be the only rookie on the 2024 grid.

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Comment of the day

Excessive plank wear led to the disqualification of two drivers from the United States Grand Prix, but only four of the 17 cars that finished the race were inspected for compliance.

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.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Adam Tate!

On this day in motorsport

  • 30 years ago today Ayrton Senna won the Japanese Grand Prix, then punched newcomer Eddie Irvine who had held him up while being lapped

Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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24 comments on “Raising ride height for COTA bumps may have ‘penalised us more’ – Bottas”

  1. Given the way the FIA enforces plank wear, seems to me the better plan for teams like Alfa Romeo is to run the ride height as low as possible, and not worry about it. There’s apparently a 1 in 17 chance they’ll get checked by the FIA, as long as they’re not on the podium– and since the FIA “randomly” checked the 4th place finisher, they’re not looking past the top three teams.

    1. As I understand it there was no random checking, it was the first three cars plus the polesitter’s car. Or maybe they chose to check Lewis’ and Charles’ cars for suspicious porpoising and then added Max’s and Lando’s for good measure and to avoid suspicacies. Anyway as I reckon there was no randomness involved.

      1. Melanos, in another thread, someone helpfully pointed out that the FIA said they checked Hamilton and LeClerc due to sensor readings indicating an unusually high amount of grounding and oscillations which can correlate to plank wear. Sorry, forgot who it was who posted that, but a very useful bit of info to give the reports some context. Would have been better if the journalists had been pointing this out on their articles, but none of them did, giving the impression it was a random pick.

        1. That is useful information.

        2. This information is circulating on this website is false and made up on the comments. The cars were selected at random like every race. You can read the confirmation of the fact that they got picked at random on article written by Matt Somerfield on Autosport (24 OCT).

          People should stop taking what’s written on the comments section as facts. The real articles written by credible jounralists that are based on real information are above the comments section.

    2. As melanos wrote, no planned randomness here: they are monitoring 1-2 most suspicious cars for porpoising and checking them. In this case VER and NOR were added for PR, I think, to avoid showing bias. Maybe I am mistaken and they are willing to scrutinize more than 2 cars. (I have checked race scrutineering docs from approx the last 8 races and based on this there were 0-2 cars to be checked for planks.) As for having all cars checked it’s useful to read all these reports that how many checks are made even with this sampling methodology and in what timeframe it would be feasible to check all cars.

  2. Can’t wait to see what Puma brings

    1. Why do German sneaker brands always choose the questionable ‘role models’ to design their shoes?

  3. I honestly don’t understand this clamour for the FIA to suddenly start scrutinising all cars. The current system works well – random spot-checks of particular areas, plus the ability to conduct more detailed scrutiny if there is any suspicion that something might be wrong (as occurred in this case – the severe bouncing observed on Hamilton and Leclerc’s cars alerted the FIA to the possibility that something may be up with the floor). Teams don’t, on the whole, try to break the rules because they know there’s a decent chance they’ll be pulled up on it.

    Did the FIA miss the opportunity to detect and exclude numerous non-compliant cars? Probably not – because most teams took extra precautions to ensure plank wear wasn’t an issue, as Bottas relates here.

    1. On car/driver specific and deliberate cheating it is certainly enough to do random checks (maybe check the other car when they find a team infringement).

      However, if the illegality of a car is most likely not due to a deliberate act and largely driven by circumstances (I would never call it ‘cheating’) then FIA should have the option to check all cars when the original sample creates a high non-compliance rate.
      This is normal in business; if the sample creates a too high out-of spec result, then a bigger sample, or even the whole lot, will be checked.

      In case of the plank it’s easy to ask the teams to detach the plank and hand it in (I assume they are numbered). I can’t see teams increasing the thickness after the race ;)

      PS on the driver weight checking (and indirectly car weight): I notice that drivers are sometimes weighed with additional items (a flag) or after taking a drink. It’s probably a minor thing, but as the track limits, plank thickness, wing flex and openings are measure to the mm, FIA should be quite strict on that measurement as well.

      1. The checks on Hamilton and Leclerc weren’t random though. They were specifically prompted by the observation that they appeared to have been bottoming out more severely than other cars. The FIA also checked a couple of other cars to be on the safe side – doubling your sample size seems reasonable if you’re trying to confirm that there isn’t a systemic issue.

        Having confirmed that only the “suspicious” cars were in breach of the rules, going on to check the rest of the field would have been overkill. There was nothing in the tests that had already been conducted to suggest that the issue was any more widespread.

        1. The checks on Hamilton and Leclerc weren’t random though.

          I’m not sure how they chose those cars, other than some speculation by other commenters.
          Do you have a link where FIA confirms it was based on suspicion (out of interest, rather than to challenge you).

          I guess with the vertical G-force measurement (installed last year due to the porpoising) I guess FIA has sufficient data to guess which cars might have excessive plank wear.

    2. Robert Henning
      24th October 2023, 10:26

      It simply stems from the fact that Lewis got penalized. Many people who want a full check now are his fans and instead of addressing the elephant in the room, have blamed the track, sprint and wind without putting the blame on Mercedes.

      They never bothered with these things before because the checks were done sometimes and not done some other times. At Singapore I believe only two cars were checked even (its similar in bumpiness to COTA I believe).

      It’s essentially deflecting from the core issue that Mercedes and Ferrari took a calculated risk, and got caught. Probably made even worse by the fact that RB won a race on strategy when Mercedes could have indeed won with an illegal car.

      Blaming the FIA is the easiest thing to do. So naturally that’d be where it starts. Sure they’re incompetent for most parts but it seems when they are competent and follow rules many don’t like the outcome.

  4. Letting the teams self scrutinise, backed up by random checks is like asking a sprinter to self administer drug tests and then randomly check.
    The 20% or so chance of being checked may well be seen as worth giving it a try.

    Check all the cars or check none – it’s the only fair way.

    1. The 20% or so chance of being checked may well be seen as worth giving it a try.

      As we’ve seen this week – Mercedes and Ferrari aren’t particularly upset with the testing regime as they know they broke the rules entirely due to their own setup choices, and they have probably gotten away with a lot themselves at other times.
      Taking the risk to be in breach of the technical rules may well result in disqualification. Is it worth it?

      Check all the cars or check none – it’s the only fair way.

      Any car can be checked, and any part of it can be checked at any event. How much more ‘fair’ do you want it to be?
      And seriously? Check none is a viable solution to you?

    2. Every one needs to do a breathalyzer or none at all, to be fair? Come on.
      I’m fairly sure the F.I.A. knew where to look before the race was over.
      You’re aware this measurement isn’t the only thing that gets tested, I hope? All cars are weighed, Some got bottom checks, other cars got flexi-wing-tested, DRS-gap measured, some were fuel sampled, fluid quantity checked, tires need to be checked …
      To do all tests on all cars would take more than 24h, and next week the circus needs to be in Mexico, so the teams don’t want to wait an extra day to disassemble and ship the cars…

  5. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    24th October 2023, 9:44

    I just find it amusing that in the high tech world of F1 there is still a big wooden plank on the underside of the cars. Don’t get me wrong it works but it’s funny that after 30 years this is still deemed the best way.

    1. It’s *not* a wooden plank, it hasn’t been since the 90’s. It’s a glass reinforced plastic called permaglass. Also, the permaglass plank is not measured. The titanium skids are measured, which are situated in pockets in the plank.


      1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        24th October 2023, 12:44

        Ahh. I honestly had no idea. Thanks.

      2. Thanks MNGN, that’s more useful info.

      3. No, the plank is measured. From the 2023 Technical Regulations, part 3.5.9

        e. 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.
        f. The plank assembly must have four precisely placed holes the positions of which are
        given by RV-PLANK. To establish the conformity of the plank assembly after use, its
        thickness will only be measured at these holes, regardless of whether plank or skid
        material is present.
        Four additional 10mm diameter holes are permitted provided their sole purpose is to
        allow access to the bolts which secure the Accident Data Recorder to the survival cell.

    2. @rdotquestionmark
      What I like about it is that it checks the end result. You either wore it down too much or you didn’t. And how you want to achieve this goal is open. You can work with ride height, suspension in conjunction with downforce. Even tire pressures :-D
      No need for adding sensors that can fail or be manipulated. And if you had a sensor, what would you measure? If the car goes below the threshold once you’re done? I don’t like that.
      I also like that the plank is more sensible. It allows for some small errors or circumstances, like taking a bit too much kerb in 1 corner and the car gets smacked down for a bit (could be driver error or could be forced off). If the plank is still legal at the end, you got away with it.

  6. Oran Park was a fun track, one of the rare ones with a figure eight layout. It also had some subtle elevation changes and a fast right-left on the top of a crest. According to Wikipedia it’s has completely disappeared under residential development.

    1. According to Wikipedia it’s has completely disappeared under residential development.

      It is indeed a housing estate now. Used to be a quiet countryside area, but is now in widespread development with a new international airport under construction just a few km’s away.
      Was a nice little track for the time, but due to it’s small size and technical driver’s-track style, it wouldn’t have stood up well with modern cars today and audience tastes for more competitive racing.

Comments are closed.