Lewis Hamilton has revealed that “several sources” informed him that other Formula 1 cars had planks that would have been deemed “illegal” but “weren’t tested” after the United States Grand Prix.
Hamilton matched his best result of the entire season with second place at the Circuit of the Americas, coming within 2.2s of beating Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.
However, both Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc were qualified after post-race checks discovered that the planks on their cars failed to comply with the regulations.
Reviewing the debacle for the first time ahead of the Mexico City Grand Prix, the Briton concedes that he was “devastated” to be told that he had lost his runners-up finish.
“I had just come out of the press conference. I got back and was about to get into the ice tub when Toto [Wolff] came down and told me,” Hamilton explained.
“Obviously devastated after such a good day and a great race. I didn’t find out fully until I was back home [in Austin]. A bit deflated but still lots of positives to take from it.”
Despite the drivers complaining about the bumps at COTA throughout the weekend, the FIA proceeded to retain its protocol of only measuring the planks of four select cars.
While the cars of Lando Norris and Verstappen were judged to be legal, the Ferrari of Leclerc and Hamilton’s Mercedes were both referred to the stewards, eventually resulting in their disqualification.
Hamilton, however, insists that more cars would have failed the test and has called for a “better structure” to be implemented to ensure other drivers can’t “get away with it”.
“Firstly I’ve heard from several different sources that there were a lot of other cars that were also illegal and weren’t tested, so they get away with it,” he issued.
“I’ve been racing here for 16 years and there’s been times that there’s been many other scenarios like this. Some people have gotten away with some things, and some people have just been unlucky they got tested.
“Ultimately, there needs to be some better structure to make sure it’s fair and even across the board.”
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 22.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Race Day.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admitted that the complications provided by the Sprint format allocating only one practice session contributed to Hamilton’s disqualification.
Hamilton believes that the rule restricting drivers to only 60 minutes of on-track running before mandating them to lock in set-ups for the weekend should be scrapped.
“We’ve never had that problem in Austin before,” Hamilton addressed. “It’s just that we had a Sprint race before.”
“An easy fix for that one,[would be to] just approach the weekend differently where the car is not set from Friday morning, especially at the bumpiest track we have been to. That’s really the only reason there’s failures, because it’s so bumpy.
“Some cars have better ride quality than others. If you look at the Ferrari, Charles’ head and my head, we have a pretty bad ride. It’s bumping around quite a lot because the cars are hitting the deck, it’s not because we are generally just pushing the car too low.”
Hamilton has also categorically denied that Mercedes’ improved run in Austin derived from gaining an advantage from running its W14 car too close to the ground.
“Last year, our car was best when it was low. So we were low and stiff. Our car works better at high ride heights now,” he contended.
“It’s not that we were pushing the car too low, it’s just an unfortunate scenario. 0.05 failure on the rear skid is not the main difference between winning or losing. That area wasn’t the reason we were fastest.
“That’s why it’s just a bit painful for us because if we changed our rear springs for example, perhaps we would have had a better ride. But we are hopeful that the performance will continue this weekend. Just need to make sure that the guys don’t overreact but I think we’ll be fine.”