Mercedes admit they were embarrassed by Lewis Hamilton’s disqualification in the United States Grand Prix, but remain confident in their latest upgrade package.Circuit of the Americas on Sunday after the stewards discovered his plank had worn below the legal minimum.
Technical director James Allison said “the weekend was a very cast iron vote of confidence in favour of the stuff we put on the car” in a video released by the team. He said a set-up error arising from the bumpy nature of the Austin track and the limited practice time available on the sprint race weekend led to the rules breach.
“Normally in a race weekend you have three untimed sessions, free practice, one, two and three, in which you gradually hone the set-up of the car, getting it ready for the qualifying on the Saturday and the race on the Sunday. In that period of practice, what you’re trying to do is get the car fast, reliable and legal, making sure that you’re ticking all the boxes that enable the car to get through to the end of the weekend fast and good when you go in to parc ferme.
“At a sprint weekend, you are under much more pressure. You have just a solitary hour. The very front of the weekend, free practice one, where you have to get the car ready for the next session, which is qualifying, the next session, which is sprint [qualifying], the next session, which is the sprint race, and then the race itself.
“So after that one hour, basically you have cast your die, you have chosen your set-up and you have then got to run the rest of the weekend with the bets you placed in that one hour of running. Much, much less time to assess things than normal. And much less time to make corrective action ahead of the sort of paying sessions later in the weekend.”
The team was confident in its plank wear forecast after the first practice session, said Allison. “When we’d done our set-up, we checked the plank, it all looked fine. [It was] really untouched after that free practice one running. But the results of the race speak for themselves.
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“We were illegal at the end of the race and clearly we should have had our car set a little bit higher up to give ourselves just a little bit more margin. It’s, of course, a mistake. It’s an understandable sort of mistake in a sprint weekend where it’s so much harder to get that stuff right, especially on a bumpy track. But a lesson for us in the future, to make sure that we take more margin, especially at a track like that with all of its bumps.”
Allison admitted the team “simply didn’t take enough margin” with its plank wear, and the news of the disqualification hit them hard. “Of course the disqualification is a significant blow. It’s a miserable feeling. It hurts.
“Everybody here feels it, everybody would be upset, embarrassed to a degree as well because we absolutely don’t like being the wrong side of the rules and just lamenting the lost points. So that’s the sort of immediate feeling.”
However they remain confident the upgrade package they introduced in Austin is a significant step forwards. “We moved our car forward this weekend and it’s hard to do that, it’s hard to do it, but we did it and we did it by decent amount.
“With four races left in the championship, four races where I’m pretty sure we will stay on the right side of the skid block rules, we will nevertheless have the uplift that we gave to our car. And so the initial feeling of a sort of hurt and disappointment and and frustration ourselves will pass to be replaced by the sort of sunny optimism of knowing that the car looked bright on this upgrade package. And we got four races to show what we can do with it.”
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2023 United States Grand Prix
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