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Hamilton disqualified from qualifying results

NEWS STORY
13/11/2021

Lewis Hamilton will start today's Sprint from the back of the grid after being disqualified from the results of qualifying after his rear wing failed DRS gap test.

The Technical Delegate reported that Hamilton's car failed the test designed to check the requirements of the last paragraph of Art. 3.6.3 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 Technical Regulations which is described in Technical Directive 011-19.

In lay terms, there is a gap between the upper and lower parts of the rear wing. When the DRS is not activated this gap must be between 10mm and 15mm. The car passed this part of the test.

When DRS is activated, which raises the upper element of the wing to a flatter position, the gap must be between 10mm and 85mm. The maximum gap is measured, in accordance with TD/011-19, by pushing an 85mm gauge against the gap with a maximum load of 10N (ten newtons) If the gauge goes through then the car has failed the test.

In this case, the gauge would not pass through at the inner section of the wing, but did at the outer section of the wing. This test was repeated four times with two different gauges, once being done in the presence of the stewards and representatives of Mercedes.

The Stewards held a hearing on Friday following qualifying with Ron Meadows, Mercedes representative, and Simon Cole, the German team's chief engineer, trackside and from the FIA, Jo Bauer, Technical Delegate and Nicholas Tombazis, Single Seater Technical Director.

The Stewards then adjourned the hearing to gather more evidence and at 10:30am this morning held a further hearing that also included John Owen, Chief Designer for Mercedes, who testified by video conference, but did not include Joe Bauer.

Mercedes asserted that the design is intended to meet the regulations. It was clear to the Stewards that the additional deflection was due to additional play either in the DRS actuator or the pivots at the end, or some combination or other fault with the mechanism, or incorrect assembly of the parts.

The stewards heard, from both the team and the FIA that the same design has been tested many times during the season and uniformly passed. Further, the FIA has examined the design of the area of the car in question and are satisfied that the design meets the intent of the regulation. There is therefore no question in the minds of the Stewards that the test failure indicates any intent to exceed the maximum dimension either by action or design.

Mercedes also noted, that Art 3.6.3 of the regulation states a maximum dimension, which is possible to measure without applying a force or load. It is not until a force is applied, that the gauge is able to go through. There was no disagreement that the test itself was undertaken as described in TD/011-19. The gauges were measured and the stewards were satisfied that they were the correct dimension.

Mercedes therefore argues that their car complied with the regulation in the static position and thus meets the regulation. The FIA argues that while not regulatory, the TD, like many others, describes the procedure for the test so that competitors may design cars to meet the regulations. Further, the TD states that the test is designed "to make sure that the rear wing element does not deflect to a larger opening than the permitted value..."

The stewards take the position that while a TD is not in itself a regulation, TDs are accepted as the method upon which the teams may rely and in this case, the test that was carried out was in conformity with the TD and its legitimate aims.

Mercedes alleged that the fact that the car passed the test in the center section of the wing is both a mitigating factor and shows that there was no intent to breach the regulation. While the stewards accept that the latter point may be true, the stewards believe that which sections failed is not relevant to the fact that the wing did fail the test.

Mercedes noted that this is not a systemic breach, and is indeed unique. It was, rather, something gone wrong. The German team further noted that they would have liked to have had the opportunity to inspect the parts with a view to having some explanation for the stewards as to how the problem arose.

However, the stewards fundamentally accept the Competitor's explanation that the cause of the failed test was something "gone wrong" rather than a deliberate action.

The stewards therefore chose to keep the assembly under seal and preserve the evidence of the failure, rather than altering the parts in an inspection which would have involved some handling of the parts and thus some alteration of the evidence.

The final point of Mercedes regarding the assembly itself is that it is regular practice for the FIA Technical Department to allow teams to fix minor problems that they find with their cars, even during the Parc Ferme conditions of qualifying. Had Mercedes recognized this problem during qualifying they surely would have sought, and the FIA Technical Department confirmed, they would have received permission to fix the parts or tighten bolts if needed.

The stewards were sympathetic to this argument and analyzed whether they felt this was a mitigating circumstance. It is often a mitigating circumstance to make allowances for crash damage. However, the Stewards could not extend this argument to cover parts that were found out of conformity in post session checks with no obvious reason in evidence other than considering normal running at this Event. In the end, the regulations are clear and at the moment of the conformity check, the car did not comply.

At the end of the first hearing on Friday, amateur video emerged of Max Verstappen touching the car in Parc Ferme. The stewards took the time to gather all the available video footage of this incident and finally reviewed in car footage from the cars of Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen and Hamilton, as well as CCTV footage from the FIA's pit lane cameras, in addition to the amateur footage.

Though the Dutchman was fined €50,000 for "touching and examining" the rear wing, high definition video from the rear facing roll-hoop camera on Hamilton's car shows that there is absolutely no movement of any of the wing elements when Verstappen touched the back of the wing and the stewards are satisfied, from watching all the videos, his body position and the video of the wing, that there was insignificant force when Verstappen touched the wing.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Interlagos, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 14/11/2021 5:45

"I guess that there's something to be said for having the query in the first instance. At first glance the Mercedes wing seems to have had minor impact on the outright straight line speed so maybe it's a process of elimination? Whatever they've done it's rather mighty. According to Horner the speed differential between Hamilton and Norris at the passing point on pit straight was a massive 27 kph and both cars share the same [ ? ] engine. Surely that variance has to be linked to outright' power' and not chassis derived.No wonder Horner called it, 'a different formula'. I would to. When asked what Mercedes are doing he said that they knew? It must something pretty well insulated because if it was dodgy then I'm pretty certain that the FIA would be all over it. The mystery deepen and Zak Brown should be asking the hard questions of Mercedes...how can it be so?"

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2. Posted by Simon in Adelaide, 14/11/2021 4:46

"So 50,000 euros well spent by Red Bull"

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3. Posted by jcr, 13/11/2021 22:53

"@Oldgit.
No he is not on the back of the grid for the GP.
The infringement only relates to todays race, which is not a race really !!!
But He still carries the engine penalty for tomorrows real race.
Try to explain that to any casual observer in the pub
Doubt it.
"

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4. Posted by Jet Jockey, 13/11/2021 22:50

"@ Oldgit...

They never said anything about the "extra" amount of opening he had gained but it was only on one of the flaps and only at its extremities... its centre portion was fine so my guess is that Lewis got at best very little if any gains from it... Looking at the results from the sprint race today with and the speed Lewis got from the car with a new rear wing on the car, it is very to see that the wing with the defective DRS gave him nothing in performance.

As for tomorrow's race, Lewis will not start from the back but from where he finished today in the sprint race (fifth) plus the 5 grid penalty for the ICE replacement... So he will start from the 10th position tomorrow."

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5. Posted by Oldgit, 13/11/2021 19:50

"I presume that this means he is at the back of the grid for the Grand Prix as well ?

Also how big was the gap above the 85mm limit and how much of the DRS flap was affected ? An extra 0.1mm gap for 2 cm is a lot different to extra 5-10mm gap over 30-40 cm."

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