Wolff backs Hamilton over United States GP disqualification: Half the F1 grid was illegal

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff suggested the team's new floor generated too much downforce

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Mercedes‘ team principal, Toto Wolff, has voiced his support for Lewis Hamilton, following the latter’s disqualification at the 2023 United States Grand Prix.

The result left Hamilton with 39 points to make up if he intends to become Formula 1‘s 2023 runner-up to Max Verstappen but with four rounds remaining, including the Mexico City GP, it’s a big task for the 103-time race winner.

Hamilton had finished second at the Circuit Of The Americas, narrowly missing out on victory, and was set to gain significant points on Sergio Perez in his quest to end the season second in the drivers’ championship.

“The problem with the Sprint Races is your car goes into parc ferme and you can’t adjust it anymore,” Wolff said to Sky Sports F1 at the Mexico City GP. “Going into Saturday we thought, ’Hmm, that could be on the limit, but probably with a little bit of a margin.’

“But we had a new floor, we got more downforce, and probably in the Sprint Race we didn’t run as many non-DRS laps, which smashed the floor more, so it was just that the stars were not aligned.”

Did Mercedes update play a part?

Mercedes seemed to hit a homerun in Texas as after 56 laps they finished just over two seconds behind Max Verstappen, despite losing time due to strategic error and slow pitstops, with the new floor fitted to their car.

But did the upgrade cause the team to misjudge the margin needed to comply with the rules, thus lowering the ride height by too much, leading to 18 championship points dropped?

“It played an element because we got more downforce,” Wolff continued. “Which is the positive, and you are smashing the cars on the bumps a bit more.

“I would take the disqualification running for a race win and seeing the performance, rather than ending P3 and 25 seconds adrift. Every day of the week I would take the disqualification.”

“[It was] Absolutely [track] specific and also because of the Sprint weekend,” Wolff further added. “We are much cautious now we have the data, we can probably adjust a little bit.”

Wolff agrees that half the cars were illegal

On Thursday, Hamilton suggested that over half of the grid had illegal cars due to too much wear and tear on their floor planks and it appears that Wolff had it confirmed to the team by members the paddock.

“Yes [on if half the grid was illegal],” the Austrian continued. “That’s the feedback we got from the other teams. They chat with each other, the drivers.

“Also on a management level, I think many, many teams were probably under the 9mm.”

Could the FIA test all F1 cars after a race?

A conversation that would emerge following the disqualifications of Hamilton and Charles Leclerc is that despite a 50 percent failure rate among the randomly selected four cars, the FIA did not check the remaining 16.

It left people wondering how many competitors actually conformed to the rules and if anyone has gained critical championship points illegally, which could impact valuable prize money and wind tunnel time heading into 2024.

However, not everyone agrees with the view of checking every single car including Dave Robson, who is Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams.

“I think the way the regulation is policed at the moment, testing all cars at the end of every race is not practical,” Robson said to media. “I think it would take so long that I think everyone would get frustrated by that.

“I think the spot checks and the severity of the penalty is enough that I think, most of the time, the cars will be legal. So I think it’s fine as it is.”

Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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