Ferrari sporting director Diego Ioverno blames limited practice, the bumpy track and the wind for the excessive wear to the plank that got Charles Leclerc disqualified from the U.S. Grand Prix.
Hours after the race had ended, the stewards revealed that Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton had been summoned for alleged non-compliance with Article 3.5.9 e) of the Formula One Technical Regulations, which states that: “The thickness of the plank assembly measured normal to the lower surface must be 10mm [plus or minus] 0.2mm and must be uniform when new.
“A minimum thickness of 9mm will be accepted due to wear, and conformity to this provision will be checked at the peripheries of the designated holes.”
The purpose of the plank, which was first introduced to the sport in 1994, is to ensure that cars do not run too close to the ground, which improves performance but also compromises safety in terms of the loss of downforce when cars ‘bottom out’.
Around ninety minutes later it was confirmed that both drivers had been disqualified with neither Mercedes or Ferrari looking to appeal.
The initial blame was placed on the limited practice running that teams have over Sprint weekends – just one hour on Friday – after which the cars are under parc ferme conditions for the remainder of the weekend.
However, it’s the same for everyone, and many have been left wondering why it was just those two cars that had the issue.
Other than the limited running, the bumpy nature of the COTA track has been blamed, while Ferrari also cites the intense wind on race day.
“The sprint weekend is very peculiar,” explained the Maranello outfit’s sporting director, Diego Ioverno, “and you have very little time to prepare the car, basically only one session and then you go in parc ferme.
“It means that from that moment onwards you cannot touch the car any more,” he added. “On top of this, Austin is a super nice track but it is extremely bumpy.
“Bumpiness is a difficult topic for drivers and for cars, in the past almost everyone failed the suspension and failed the chassis. We knew it would have been tricky and this is the reason why we also lifted the car throughout FP1, and from our consideration it should have been OK.
“As a matter of fact, it turned out we were anyhow too marginal and also because of the wind that changed direction and had a stronger intensity than what was forecasted, this brought our car to not be legal at the end.
“There is not a lot to say and not a lot in this moment that we can do,” he admitted. “With hindsight, rewinding the weekend we may have lifted even more the car but we would have lost performance, and we are here always to try to optimise our own performance.”
“We are of course naturally very disappointed to lose our podium finish,” added Mercedes’ Andrew Shovlin. “Unfortunately, it is one of the pitfalls of the sprint format where we have a solitary hour of running before parc ferme.
“Without running at a race fuel load in FP1, combined with a circuit as bumpy as this and the parts of the track where the drivers have to put the car during the Grand Prix, have contributed to the higher than expected wear levels. We will go away and learn from this but also take the positives from our experience as a whole.”
“Setup choices on a sprint weekend are always a challenge with just one hour of free practice,” said Toto Wolff, “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.”