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Formula 1 Brazilian GP

F1 drivers warn against risk of Austin plank trouble repeat in Brazil

Several leading Formula 1 drivers have cautioned that F1's sprint weekend at the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend could see a repeat of Austin's plank trouble.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

The race at Interlagos is the sixth and final sprint event of the 2023 season. The sprint format caused teams some headaches earlier this year because cars are put under parc ferme conditions after Friday's single free practice session, meaning key items such as ride heights are locked in for the remainder of the weekend.

At the last sprint event in Austin Charles Leclerc's Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes were disqualified for excessive floor plank wear, despite receiving little to no warning after free practice that the plank would become an issue.

The sprint format, as well as COTA's bumpy layout, was thought to be a crucial factor in their misjudgement, as neither team was able to respond later in the weekend.

At Interlagos, the teams are again tackling a circuit known for its bumpy nature, and the added threat of rain on Friday has made it even harder to nail down the optimal ride heights across various conditions.

Mercedes' George Russell reckoned that the risk of plank wear could come up again this weekend on a circuit like 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.

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG

"I've got to be honest, on a track like this, some teams might find themselves in the same place."

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso thinks teams will have to take a more conservative approach to avoid disqualification, even if it means cars will have a compromised ride height for a dry race.

"I think a sprint format this year has been quite difficult for everyone to optimise the car," he said. "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."

Red Bull's world champion Max Verstappen hopes that teams will be allowed to make tweaks if the weekend starts off wet but the race is held in dry weather.

"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," Verstappen said.

"But hopefully the FIA will allow you to adjust some things if it has rained."

Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble and Erwin Jaeggi

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