Other people were doing it too!

CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - OCTOBER 22: Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14 during the United States GP at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday October 22, 2023 in Austin, United States of America. (Photo by Zak Mauger / LAT Images)

After Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc’s cars were disqualified from the USGP race in Austin last week, the social media world has been ripe with outrage that only four cars were checked and in particular, Lewis Hamilton’s car.

As he sometimes does, Lewis took to the media to share his opinion on the issues saying:

“What’s crazy is they only test four cars, 50% fail,” said the 38-year-old Mercedes driver.

“And I’ve had information from many others that were also illegal but they got away with it. That’s messed up.”

Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc’s cars were all checked for floor compliance and perhaps no mystery here as they were the top finishing cars. That does’t seem like targeted regulatory overbalance from my angle. That just seems logical that you’d want to make sure the winners complied.

Lewis shared more:

“There have been many other scenarios like this where some people have got away with certain things and some people have got unlucky and got tested,” he said.

“There needs to be some form of better structure to make sure it is fair and even across the board.”

Other cars were checked for other technical regulations but just four were checked for the floor legality plank height. In order to check every single car for all technical regulations including floor height, it would take as long as the grand prix itself or more. It’s not feasible and it’s not just F1 that realizes that.

F1 and IMSA both have spot checks of cars and the teams never know when they will be checked or what they will be checked for. Lewis is looking for fair, that’s about as fair as it gets because the teams should run within the regulations for fear of getting caught in random inspections. When they don’t meet regulations, they get caught. That’s fair.

The FIA released a statement saying:

“[The process] exists to ensure compliance with the regulations by virtue of the fact that the teams do not know before the race which specific areas of which cars might be examined beyond the standard checks carried out on every car each weekend.

“Even though a wide array of checks are made, it is impossible to cover every parameter of every car in the short time available – and this is especially true of back-to-back race weekends when freight deadlines must also be considered.”

I find the commentary about hearing from sources that other cars were running illegal ride heights in very poor taste. Calling for fairness in light of a system that is about as fair as it can be without this becoming an inspection grand prix where no racing occurs, cars are just inspected is sophomoric at best, infantile at worst.

The concept of, “I know I got caught but other people were doing it too!” Is a child’s argument. They may have been running too low but they weren’t caught in Austin. That does’t mean they won’t be caught in Mexico or Brazil etc. It’s a gamble you take as a team. Mercedes either gambled or they simply got the setup wrong, either way, they got caught.

I offer old advice a parent gave a child who complained that other people were doing it too…”You just worry about yourself, young man”.

To be fair to Lewis, he wasn’t the only one asked about the debacle. Lando Norris was asked and said that if one car is illegal, the other one usually is too. That may be true but it may not be. I think that would depend on context and circumstance.

Norris said:

“I would love if they had checked more cars. It can always bite you. They checked mine first. It’s more [across] teams. It’s unlikely two [cars in one team] are that different. If one car is illegal then there’s a high chance the other car is.”

Again, make…maybe not. You might assume that’s the case if the team were trying to flout the regulation but perhaps they simply got Lewis’s car wrong but George Russell’s car was correct? Who knows?

I agree with Lewis that it should be fair and even across the board and guess what? It is. Any car could be checked for anything at any time so it behooves teams to run compliant cars. It’s not like Lewis’s car is the only one checked for floor height at every race while the rest of the grid isn’t examined. Max’s car was examined. Lando’s was examined. They were compliant. As a Ferrari fan, I hate it that Leclerc’s wasn’t but those are the rules and those are fair.

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