The United States Grand Prix witnessed a particularly eventful post-race scenario. The race order was overturned by the FIA following the disqualification of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc due to excessive wear on the car’s plank. The regulations allow a maximum wear of 1mm for this component during the race, and both Mercedes and Ferrari exceeded this limit. However, it wasn’t the disqualification, which was unquestionable, that sparked the controversy, but the fact that the FIA didn’t check the other cars on the grid after finding two illegal ones out of the only four verified at the end of the United States Grand Prix.
Firstly, the FIA did nothing unusual or different from its regular procedures in Austin, so there’s no conspiracy against anyone. Random technical checks of four cars are not a novelty in Formula 1. This time, it was the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, the McLaren of Lando Norris, and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen that were selected.
However, in certain situations, perhaps the standard protocol should be abandoned in favor of common sense, because if two out of the four checked cars turn out to be illegal, it’s natural to doubt that others might also have broken the rules.
Charles Leclerc seems to share this opinion, as he accepted the disqualification but seems not to have appreciated the FIA’s behavior in Austin. The Monegasque driver liked a tweet by Tom Bellingham that reads: “The fact that only four cars were checked and half of them were illegal makes you think that others might not have passed the checks. It certainly can’t be just the bad luck of being checked.”
Frankly, it’s difficult to believe that only Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were in violation of the regulations. It’s also true that for the FIA, checking all cars becomes complex, but when 50% of your field is found illegal, natural doubts may arise. They should have at least checked the other Ferrari and Mercedes cars to see if there were any differences with the two disqualified ones. What probably isn’t pleasing to fans is the fact that the results depend on the “luck” of being checked or not.
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On the COTA circuit, we saw the SF-23 and the W14 running much lower than Red Bull, and this could have caused excessive wear on the plank. With only one free practice session, it’s challenging to verify all aspects of the chosen setup. The disqualification of Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton in Austin is absolutely correct, as there are regulations to be followed. However, we will see if the FIA decides to change something in its protocol if something like this were to happen again.