Half the cars that took part in last week’s United States Grand Prix would have been disqualified if everyone had been tested for worn skid blocks, Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday.
Talking ahead of this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, the seven-time world champion, and several other drivers, suggested that a great race last Sunday was tainted when Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc were disqualified long after the finish.
In the first leg of a triple-header with races on three successive Sundays, Hamilton, who finished a close second behind race winner Max Verstappen, and Leclerc were disqualified for excessive skid block wear. But only four cars were tested, although those also included Verstappen’s Red Bull.
“They only tested a few cars and 50 per cent were disqualified,” he said. “Far more cars were illegal, I’ve been told and they weren’t tested and it was not a performance element. It was about the bumps really.”
Hamilton and Leclerc both argued that the skid blocks were only marginally illegal, a defect that was probably caused by the bumpy nature of the track and the kerbs, and was not performance enhancing.
“Ultimately, we failed the regulation and it has to change,” said Hamilton. “To have a such a great turnout and such a great race and then something like that taints it all.”
Hamilton also said Saturday’s sprint race had contributed to the problem.
“So, rather than have 50 per cent fail they need to allow a change of the skid blocks on a Saturday night when there is a sprint race.”
Leclerc, who had finished sixth in Sunday’s race, said he and Ferrari were “completely surprised” by their disqualification and blamed ‘kerb riding’ and the bumpy circuit.
He agreed that the format of the sprint race weekend, which allows the teams only one practice session on Friday to establish car set-up, prevents any action to change settings from Friday afternoon onwards.
“Obviously, things changed and we were illegal,” he said. “Rules are rules and they must be respected,” he said.
Several other drivers including Alex Albon, Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas agreed with Hamilton and Leclerc and said that it would be much fairer to scrutineer all of the cars, not just to spot-test a few, but the sport’s ruling body the International Motoring Federation (FIA) has said that is impracticable.
The FIA sporting regulations permit technical delegate Jo Bauer to carry out compliance checks “at his discretion”.
No cars had their floors tested following the Japanese Grand Prix, one was checked after the sprint in Qatar and only three after the Qatar Grand Prix.
In Austin, Verstappen and Lando Norris’s McLaren were also tested.