At the end of each Formula 1 Grand Prix, the federation decides to examine some cars to verify their compliance with regulations. One of the most scrutinized elements is the plank, a board placed under the cars that is subject to wear and it’s precisely this element that caused what’s mentioned above. Let’s see why Let’s see why Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc received disqualifications from the 2023 Formula 1 United States GP at the Circuit of the Americas
Disqualification of Hamilton and Leclerc, why?
The element that caused Leclerc and Hamilton’s removal from the final standings is a resin board placed under the cars. According to the regulations, this board must have a thickness of 10 mm and should not wear down by more than 1 millimeter during the race. The section of the regulation discussing this topic is 3.5.9.e, which states:
“The thickness of the group of planks, which is normally measured on the lower surface, must be 10 mm ± 0.2 mm, and must be uniform when new. A minimum thickness of 9 mm will be accepted due to wear, and compliance with this provision will be checked at the perimeters of the designated holes.”
It appears that the two cars examined exceeded the minimum measurement near the holes, the only point of “flexibility” in the regulation. Furthermore, since last year, these measurements have become even more stringent, as there are only four holes through which the board is fixed.
Why did this happen in Austin and not in Singapore?
Let’s now try to understand the reasons for the excessive wear of the plank in the two disqualified cars. We know that the Austin circuit has various irregularities due to a rather uneven asphalt surface, and it is traversed at high speeds by the cars. Let’s revisit some aerodynamics concepts. Racing cars generate aerodynamic load due to the pressure difference above and below the car. Furthermore, this load increases with speed, and with cars traveling at 300 km/h, the force pushing them downward is substantial. When we add this to a track with uneven asphalt, it’s very likely that the plank will wear down. However, it’s worth noting that even in Marina Bay, Singapore, the road surface was uneven. So, why did this happen in Austin and not in Singapore?
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The main reasons can be found in the lap speed. In fact, in Singapore, the only two faster corners were the last ones leading to the finish line. Moreover, the Marina Bay circuit is of the Stop&Go type and does not have curves with medium to high-speed corners. It’s a different story in Austin; the first sector is a series of high-speed direction changes, and the final sector is no different. For example, the horseshoe bend from 16 to 19 is a long right-hand curve that is raced at speeds around 200 km/h in race conditions. This generates a considerable downward force, and if we add that it’s also taken in left-side load, the wear on the plank on that side is even greater.