Alpine duo blame Sprint format for United States GP floor controversy

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were both disqualified after their cars' floors were found to be in breach of regulations.


Pierre Gasly believes a lack of setup time between first practice and qualifying was the cause behind the post-race controversy which marred the United States Grand Prix.

Formula 1’s fifth Sprint weekend of 2023 at the bumpy Circuit of the Americas generated controversy after Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were disqualified from the race for technical infringements.

The explanation behind Leclerc and Hamilton’s disqualification was during post-race scrutineering, both cars’ skid blocks’ were found to have failed physical floor and plank wear inspections.

“Yeah, I think there are a couple of things we could do to improve what happened in Austin,” expressed Gasly. “Starting with the Sprint weekend, we’ve only got one FP1 session. 

“So to gauge what you’ll get for the next 70 Laps with two qualifyings, a Sprint race, a full Grand Prix of 59 laps with a lot of fuel, you’re going pretty blind after FP1.

“I remember [in] my karting days, all top three cars were always checked. Whenever you finish on the podium, [there will] be checks and on top of that, there will be random checks down the order.

“It’s only in F1, where it’s not standard to check all top three cars. The sprint format made it tricky, considering we have a very short amount of time to set the car up.”

Disqualification less likely during normal race weekends

Hamilton and Leclerc’s post-race disqualification promoted several drivers in the final classification. Carlos Sainz was promoted to an unexpected third place, Gasly sixth, and Logan Sargeant tenth, scoring his first F1 point.

Gasly’s upgraded haul of points made up for Ocon’s US GP ending after six laps because of crash damage caused by an opening-lap collision with Oscar Piastri.

“I think it is an extremely difficult exercise, just to guess what your ride height has to be, there is a risk and reward,” explained Ocon. “Obviously, in that sort of exercise, if you get the car lower, you get more performance.

“It’s at the risk of are you’re going to be illegal with your plank, and we’ve seen cars, changing setup, throughout the weekends, because of those things. 

“It is just too short for FP1 to set your car up, so I’m sure it’s not the first time that there were cars illegal like that on such weekends or [a] sprint weekend. I think I’m normal format. 

“It’s a lot less likely to happen. But, I’m sure on the other races there was as well.”

Ed Spencer
Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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