It took too long - again - to decide Hamilton and Leclerc's US GP disqualification


2023 US Grand Prix diary: More lengthy post-race investigations, the challenge of COTA and Ricciardo returns with the stars — Chris Medland's view from the F1 paddock

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc talk after 2023 US Grand Prix sprint race

Hamilton and Leclerc both finished on the podium in the US GP sprint, but were disqualified from Sunday's race

Dan Istitene/F1 via Getty Images

A fan and team favourite weekend in Austin delivered a captivating race even if the winning name is so familiar, but then it turned out the fight for the win didn’t really matter…


Technical checks take too long

I have sympathy for the FIA, because the complexity of Formula 1 cars means it is extremely difficult to police their legality given the number of components that need checking. But on Sunday, in front of another massive and extremely passionate crowd, those aspects hurt the sport a little once again.

The exciting climax to the race that saw Lewis Hamilton closing in on Max Verstappen ended up being redundant once Hamilton’s car — along with Charles Leclerc’s — was disqualified from the results for excessive plank wear.

Lewis Hamilton in 2023 US Grand Prix

Hamilton contributed to a tense finale, but a ground-down plank saw him lose his podium place

Jiri Krenek/Mercedes

When there are decisions to be made that could see a driver disqualified, I want the FIA to be thorough, but investigations need to be quicker. Whether that’s a case of manpower or facilities and equipment, investments need to be made because three-and-a-half hours after the race ended fans were long since back in the downtown bars and a decision had still not been communicated regarding the two cars under investigation.

Knowing what a huge impact on a race result it can have, there needs to be a way of making the whole process quicker.


But don’t blame the track

The stewards’ decisions cited that both Mercedes and Ferrari “stated that the high wear on the skid pads was probably a result of the unique combination of the bumpy track and the sprint race schedule that minimised the time to set up and check the car before the race.”

Obviously they weren’t reasons that were accepted as mitigation, but the bumpy track point was raised by multiple drivers who want to see Circuit of the Americas resurfaced and made smoother.

Charles Leclerc heads down hill at Circuit of the Americas in 2023 US Grand Prix

COTA is a welcome challenge for drivers and cars


Before losing P2, Hamilton did state that he likes some of the bumps because they add character. Although he might not feel the same way after the event, I was in agreement with him when he made that point.

Too many circuits are adapted to be close to optimal for running F1 cars, but the further away from that they can be — while still being safe — provides different challenges to teams and drivers and creates unpredictability. Reliability has become extremely strong in recent years with engine freezes and advancements in technology but COTA was proving a real test of a car’s robustness and it added a dimension that actually increased interest from my point of view.

There are always limits, and driver safety or physical comfort should be a priority, but ensuring a car is put through its paces both from a performance and strength point of view can’t be a bad thing.


Ricciardo burns the candle at both ends

I’ll admit I was a little surprised at the way Daniel Ricciardo’s grand prix weekend panned out as he returned from the hand injury that has kept him out of the car since August.

The pressure had been eased by the fact he already knew he had a race seat for 2024 with AlphaTauri, but Liam Lawson’s performances as his replacement meant questions might have started to be asked pretty quickly if Ricciardo struggled at all.

Daniel Ricciardo walks along pitlane ahead of 2023 US Grand Prix

Ricciardo returned dressed for fashion show

That was one reason for Ricciardo’s decision to miss Qatar and ensure he was as close to 100% as possible with his hand and fitness level, rather than risk coming back too early. But Ricciardo’s a huge draw in Austin and wasn’t going to pass up on the opportunity to fulfil other commitments that he had planned.

The high trousers on Thursday were a nod to an event he was hosting on Friday night, with a downtown bar taken over to promote his Enchanté clothing venture, and his outfit matching the style of the band Caamp that was one of two acts he introduced.

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Ricciardo was on his best behaviour of course, but was very much part of the festivities before stepping up his game on Saturday to qualify 11th and finish 12th ahead of team-mate Yuki Tsunoda in both sessions.

It was impressive how quickly he seemed to be getting back up to speed but he forewarned a tougher Sunday and it proved true as he faded in the race attempting a one-stop strategy and ended up last of the 17 finishers. The hand wasn’t the issue but overall fitness was more so, even if he had the capacity of a late charge trying to close down Kevin Magnussen on softs.

Ricciardo remains massively popular in the United States and he won’t have hurt his reputation this weekend, but in front of such a knowledgeable crowd his race performances will have to be strong to help him maintain his status on this side of the pond.


The stars certainly come out

Austin has actually been quite a popular race for a number of years when it comes to A-list appearances, with royals and superstars from film and sports regularly attending. But it’s now getting to the level where it’s almost so normal that teams struggle to quite create the buzz they expect to from the guests they have in attendance.

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Rory McIlroy and Anthony Joshua were on duty with Alpine after recent investment in part of its ownership group, but they were fighting for coverage with the likes of Prince Harry, Adam Driver, Elon Musk, Chloe Grace Moretz, Drew Barrymore… The list goes on.

Big numbers of celebrities at Formula 1 races are nothing new, especially in this recent boom that the sport has been enjoying, but perhaps what’s so impressive about the scene in Austin is the way it had already been growing heavily and has continued to do so, maintaining the pull.

The narrative evolved slightly in the face of Miami and Las Vegas coming onto the calendar, with those in attendance keen to come to the “original” American race and citing its official name as a selling point compared to the newer additions. Momentum certainly isn’t slowing.