George Russell suspects that the Sprint format could lead to some teams again falling foul of the regulations governing plank wear in this weekend’s Brazil Grand Prix.

Last month’s United States Grand Prix saw both Russell’s Mercedes team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc excluded when post-race checks discovered their respective cars had exceeded the mandated 1mm allowance on plank wear.

Mercedes attributed the disqualification to being caught out by the Sprint configuration only allocating one practice hour before locking drivers into parc ferme conditions.

Although Russell avoided punishment as his W14 car remained unchecked in Austin, the Briton wouldn’t be surprised if the issue was raised again this weekend in Sao Paulo.

“It’s going to be really challenging and this is going to be a big issue with the Sprint race weekend, because, as we said in Austin, we ended practice, we did our checks, there was no wear, so we thought we’re in the clear and then, a small change of wind direction, putting 100 kilos of fuel in the car for the first time, some laps in traffic, some laps not in traffic in a really bumpy circuit, we suddenly found ourselves with an issue we weren’t expecting,” Russell cautioned.

“I’ve got to be honest, on a track like this, some teams may find themselves in the same place, so that’s just part of a game in a Sprint race.”

Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren walks the circuit with the team. 02.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Preparation Day

However, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri believes that the notorious bumps present at the Circuit of the Americas contributed to the unexpected issues some encountered.

But the Australian, who will be competing at the Interlagos circuit for the first time, agrees with Russell that the risk of being caught out by the revised weekend format remains.

Asked if he predicts more teams to be conservative amid the spate of problems in Texas, Piastri said: “I think maybe some people will be a bit more conservative. I don’t know because I’ve not driven here, but I don’t think here will be as bumpy as Austin. I think that’s what caught out a lot of people.

“Of course you still have the same risks being that once you send the car out for qualifying you can’t touch it again, unless you want to start from the pitlane twice. So maybe the risk is a bit lower, but it’s still definitely there.”

Red Bull admitted that it had raised the ride height of its RB19 at COTA to leave an element of margin, despite acknowledging that it came at the cost of performance.

Meanwhile, Alpine previously had to remove both its drivers to the pitlane in Baku, also a Sprint weekend, amid concerns that it had set the ride height of its cars too low.

Esteban Ocon sympathised with Ferrari and Mercedes, citing that being granted only one practice hour to optimise set-ups meant any team could have been caught out.

“Well, I think every team knows how they are after the races, because they can check the planks every time,” Ocon added. “You know, there’s a performance factor in that, for sure.

“You have to be legal, that is the rule, it’s not an easy task. Because obviously you have only one session, you don’t really do long runs in P1.

“And yeah, I mean, it can happen to everyone, I would say, what has happened in Austin, but hopefully it won’t happen to us. And yeah, hopefully there will be no mistakes like that because we’ve paid the price in Baku already, in one of the years, this year actually. So yeah, it’s one of the goals this weekend.”

Despite overriding concerns surrounding the bumps at COTA throughout the race weekend, the FIA retained its usual protocol of only checking four cars for any illegalities.

Ocon, however, is convinced that the cars of all the points scorers should be analysed after every race, adding that he is certain more cars would have failed the inspection.

“I think all the top 10… everyone that gets a reward should be checked at the end of the race. I mean, I remember that’s how it was in go-karts,” the Frenchman claimed.

“Everyone that was scoring points, or at least all the podium-scorers, they were getting checked after the race. I’m sure if more cars would’ve been checked, there would’ve been more issues.

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