Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff break silence on dramatic US GP disqualification

Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff break silence on dramatic US GP disqualification

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were both disqualified hours after the United States Grand Prix after failing post-race FIA checks on their cars which found an issue

Lewis Hamilton has reacted to his US GP disqualification

Lewis Hamilton insisted his United States Grand Prix disqualification does not take away from Mercedes’ strong performance in Austin.

The seven-time world champion crossed the line second behind Max Verstappen on track. But he was later stripped of his podium and the 18 points that came with it after his Mercedes car failed post-race scrutineering checks from the FIA.

Hamilton was blunt in his reaction to the news. “It is of course disappointing to be disqualified post-race, but that doesn’t take away from the progress we’ve made this weekend,” he said.

The FIA’s checks found excessive wear to the rear skids on his Mercedes which meant the car did not comply with F1 regulations. Charles Leclerc was also disqualified after a similar problem was discovered on his Ferrari.

Team principal Toto Wolff was slightly less brief as he held his hands up and admitted the team was at fault. “Set-up choices on a sprint weekend are always a challenge with just one hour of free practice – and even more so at a bumpy circuit like COTA and running a new package.

“In the end, all of that doesn’t matter – others got it right where we got it wrong and there’s no wiggle room in the rules. We need to take it on the chin, do the learning, and come back stronger next weekend.”

The result meant Lando Norris inherited second place from Hamilton, while Carlos Sainz was bumped up to the podium. Sergio Perez’s finish is improved to fourth, which has a significant impact on the battle for second place in the drivers’ standings.

Hamilton would have scored 18 points by finishing second, while Perez would have taken 10 for fifth. Now the seven-time world champion leaves the US empty-handed and his Red Bull rival takes an extra two points, the gap between them now has increased to 39 with four rounds remaining.

The double disqualification is also a huge boost for Williams. Their drivers both rise into the points positions, helping the team to solidify seventh place in the constructors’ championship and meaning rookie Logan Sargeant has finally scored his first ever F1 point.

“It’s amazing to score my first point in F1 on home turf after the challenging weekend I’ve had,” said the delighted American. “I’m so proud of this team and myself for the hard work and progress we’ve been making this season. “

Why was Lewis Hamilton disqualified?

The F1 regulations are enormously detailed and it is the responsibility of the teams to make sure their cars are in compliance with those rules at all times. The one which Hamilton and Leclerc’s cars flouted specifies that those rear skids have to be a certain thickness at all times.

The rule exists to control the ride height of the cars. Running a car lower to the ground makes it faster because, generally, it creates more downforce. But the unfortunate side-effect with this generation of cars, as discovered in the early rounds of last season, is that running too low creates the ‘porpoising’ effect where cars bounce uncontrollably at high speeds.

This raised a safety issue and so the rules were tweaked to limit how low teams can run their cars. Though Mercedes did not purposely run their cars with a lower ride height than is allowed in the US GP, but the bumpiness of the track led to more wear to the skids than expected which meant they were thinner than the regulations allowed when checked after the race.

Hamilton’s Mercedes car failed a post-race inspection

Non-compliance with FIA scrutineering checks usually means a disqualification was inevitable and it duly came the way of Hamilton and Leclerc in this case. Explaining the decision, the stewards made it clear their hands were tied when it came to their punishment.

The decision document read: “During the hearing the team acknowledged that the measurement performed by the FIA Technical Team was correct and stated that the high wear on the skid pads was probably a result of the unique combination of the bumpy track and the Sprint race schedule that minimized the time to set up and check the car before the race.

“The Stewards note that the onus is on the competitor to ensure that the car is in compliance with the regulations at all times during an event. In this particular case, the rear skid in the area defined in the Technical Delegate’s report was outside of the thresholds outlined in Article 3.5.9 e) of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations, which includes a tolerance for wear. Therefore, the standard penalty for a breach of the Technical Regulations is imposed.”

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