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Hamilton Disqualified From 2023 Austin GP, Loses Podium for Failing Plank Check

Hamilton's disqualification bumped Lando Norris into second place and Carlos Sainz to third.
Getty

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton had one of his best races of the season in Austin, Texas and an incredibly quick final stint. If he had a few more laps, he likely would have finished even higher than third. However, that impressive performance is now erased from the history books, as both Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc were disqualified from the Formula 1 2023 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas after the race for failing plank checks.

For those who don’t follow F1 too closely, the “plank check” refers to a technical check conducted by FIA scrutineers, in which they inspect the wooden plank mounted to the belly of the car. If the plank has excessive wear at the end of the race, that means the car was too low to the ground, violating FIA rules. After the Austin GP, random plank checks were conducted on Hamilton, Leclerc, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (who won, yet again), and McLaren’s Lando Norris. The former two had too much wear on their planks, and were disqualified.

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes | Getty

The rule states that the wooden plank can only have a maximum of one millimeter of wear. The plank is 10mm thick, so if it’s anything less than 9mm following the race, the car and driver are disqualified. Parts of the plank have titanium plates, and those plates will create sparks as the car’s scrape the ground and can tip off the scrutineers as to which cars may have excess wear.

It seems that a combination of things caused the Mercedes and Ferrari to wear excessively. One of which was the track, as Austin’s Circuit of the Americas is bumpy. That can cause cars to bottom out more than usual. If Mercedes and Ferrari set their cars up too low, or with too-soft suspension, the bumpy surface could have exacerbated the tendency to bottom out, wearing those planks down.

Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari | Getty

With Hamilton and Leclerc—who placed third and sixth, respectively—Lando Norris was bumped up to second and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took third. Oddly, Leclerc’s disqualification actually helped Ferrari by bumping Sainz into third spot, giving him more points on the day. The changes at the top of the finishing order also allowed Logan Sergeant to move up to 10th, making the Williams driver the first American to score a Formula 1 point since Michael Andretti, way back in 1993.

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