As the Brazilian Grand Prix looms on the Formula 1 calendar, drivers and teams find themselves in the midst of a dilemma that echoes the plank wear issue that plagued the Austin Grand Prix earlier this season. With the sprint event’s stringent regulations locking in car setups after Friday practice, concerns are growing that similar disqualifications could occur in Interlagos.
“It’s going to be really challenging. This is a big issue with the sprint race weekend. In Austin, we ended practice, we did our checks, there was no plank wear and we thought we were in the clear.
“And then with a small change of wind direction, put in 100 kilos of fuel in the car for the first time, some laps in traffic, some laps not in traffic, on a really bumpy circuit, we suddenly found ourselves in an issue we weren’t expecting.
“I’ve got to be honest, on a track like this, some teams might find themselves in the same place.”
Sprint Event Structure Concerns: The parc ferme conditions imposed post-Friday practice sessions are causing unease among drivers and teams. These regulations lock in car setups, including ride heights, which may not be optimal for the entire weekend. The unique challenge presented by the Brazilian circuit demands adaptability, and the current rules limit it.
Previous Disqualifications Warning: The shocking disqualifications of Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton in Austin due to floor plank wear, without any prior warnings, have sent shockwaves through the paddock. The bumpy and undulating terrain of Interlagos adds another layer of complexity, making it crucial for teams to find a balance between performance and compliance.
Adaptation and Regulations: Some drivers, like Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin, foresee a more conservative approach from teams in response to the past issues. Alonso believes that erring on the side of caution might be the wisest strategy to avoid a repeat scenario. On the other hand, Max Verstappen hopes for some regulatory leeway, especially in case of unexpected weather changes, to mitigate the plank wear risks.
“I think a sprint format this year has been quite difficult for everyone to optimise the car.
“There are always margins that you need to take.
“In Austin, we had a few cars that have been checked, and many other cars that they didn’t check that they were not legal. I think here it will be a little bit more conservative from everyone.”
The Brazilian Grand Prix has always been a unique challenge for Formula 1, and this year’s sprint format adds an extra layer of complexity. With the shadow of Austin’s disqualifications looming over Interlagos, teams and drivers will need to navigate the fine line between pushing the performance envelope and staying within the confines of the regulations.
“For setting up the car and the ride height, it’s always very tricky when it has rained for a whole day and in the race on Sunday you are driving on a dry track.
“But hopefully the FIA will allow you to adjust some things if it has rained.”