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FIA: Simply “impossible” to check every part on every F1 car

The FIA insists it is “impossible” to check every component on every Formula 1 car in scrutineering, amid ongoing controversy over the disqualifications of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc. 

Mechanics with their cars in Parc Ferme

Hamilton and Leclerc were excluded from last weekend’s United States Grand Prix after their floor planks were found to have worn away beyond the allowed amount. 

But while both teams accepted their cars did not comply with the regulations, there was a fair deal of intrigue prompted by the fact that the FIA had not checked the planks on all the cars. 

Beyond the two disqualified drivers, only Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and Lando Norris’s McLaren were also examined. 

The situation of half the cars checked by the FIA not being in compliance with the rules prompted suggestions that the governing body should have opened up its examination to include other cars – as there were potentially others that had worn away their planks too much. 

This was something that F1 co-commentator Martin Brundle suggested in his regular post-race column for Sky. 

“After the race four cars were checked, including Verstappen's Red Bull and Norris' McLaren, and both Hamilton's Mercedes and Leclerc's Ferrari were found to have too much wear, for which the only remedy is disqualification, however minimal the indiscretion,” he write. “There can be no grey area on this. 

“The next big question however is that if 50 per cent of the tested cars failed, then shouldn't all the finishers have been checked? The answer must surely be yes.” 

But the FIA has explained that such detailed checking of cars as complex as F1 is simply not going to happen, as it is not practically possible to go through every component of each classified finisher in the time that is available. 

Instead, it says its long-standing protocol of randomly checking various parts from cars has long worked because teams never know what components are being looked at each race - so they can't risk trying to get around the rules. 

Mechanics move the car of Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23, in Parc Ferme after the Sprint

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Mechanics move the car of Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23, in Parc Ferme after the Sprint

In a note detailing the scrutineering process, the FIA has explained that this random element is enough of a deterrent to ensure that teams comply with the regulations.

“This means that, from their perspective, any part of the car could be checked at any time, and the consequences for non-compliance with the technical regulations can be severe,” said the FIA. 

“The FIA’s F1 technical team has a wealth of experience, as well as data from a plethora of sources and sensors that help inform decisions on what aspects of compliance might be checked.  

“The vast majority of the time, all cars are found to be compliant. However, as happened in Austin, breaches of the rules are occasionally found and reported to the Stewards, who decide the appropriate action to take.” 

The FIA says that practical aspects have to be taken into account when it comes to checking cars, and there is always a limit amount of time after qualifying and the race, when cars are regularly checked. 

“In conducting these tests, a huge amount  of work goes on in the limited time available after a grand prix finishes and before the cars need to be returned to their teams for disassembly and transportation to the next race,” it added. 

“However, 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. 

“This is why the process of randomly selecting a number of cars for post-race scrutineering across various aspects of the regulations is so valuable. Each team is aware that selection is possible and understand that the chance of any lack of compliance being uncovered is strong.” 

The bid to ensure teams are complying with the rules is also boosted by the fact that at each event one car is singled out for more extensive tests – which go into far greater detail than is possible in the immediate post-race activities. 

The FIA added: “These ‘deep dives’ are invasive and often require the disassembly of significant components that are not regularly checked due to the time it takes to carry out the procedure.  

“This process involves comparing the physical components with CAD files the teams are required to supply to the FIA, as well as verification of team data that is constantly monitored by the FIA’s software engineers.” 

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