Two races, three high-profile unsafe releases from pit stops. Perhaps it's no surprise then that the FIA have vowed to investigate, with the governing body's F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting saying the incidents are “looking less and less like a coincidence”.
FIA to investigate wheelguns after spate of unsafe releases
It’s looking like less and less like a coincidence...
Ferrari were fined €50,000 for releasing Kimi Raikkonen’s car in an unsafe manner during the Bahrain Grand Prix, which resulted in the Finn inadvertently knocking over and breaking the leg of one of his mechanics.
It marked the third race in the last four seasons in which Raikkonen has retired due to unsafe release, and the second time over the weekend that Ferrari suffered such a problem, with the 2007 world champion also forced to stop in second practice in Sakhir with a loose wheel.
And it came after Haas, who use the same rear-wheel components as Ferrari through their technical partnership with the Italian outfit, suffered two unsafe releases during the Australian race, which cost them 22 points.
“It’s looking like less and less like a coincidence but the two incidences in Melbourne were quite clearly wheelgun operator error,” said Whiting. “They cross threaded the nuts and thought it was tight, came off and then realised a little too late it wasn’t.
“[With the incident in Bahrain], the guy hadn’t even taken the wheel off, which is slightly perplexing.”
Whiting said the FIA would “absolutely” take a look at the wheelguns in a bid to find out what went wrong and prevent such an instance happening again.
“Alonso lost a wheel in testing if you remember we went through it all with McLaren, they gave us a report in the week,” said Whiting. “We discussed it with the Technical Working Group to understand it all, to make sure everybody else realises these things can happen, everyone tries to learn from them.
“What happened was that the design of the nose piece that goes into the axel, that is the thing that holds the two-stage retention mechanism. But the way that is fixed into the axel was not quite strong enough so the wheel was a little bit loose, it worked itself loose because it had done four laps prior to that.
“So when the wheel started to tip a little bit, it put abnormal loads into the things that were holding the nose in and once the nose came out, there was no retention. So a lesson to be learnt there - that was shared with everyone in the Technical Working Group so that they can all look at that and make sure their designs aren’t similar.
“Of course they said ours won’t do that...”
The injured Ferrari mechanic, Francesco Cigarini, said on Instagram after the race that he’d had surgery on his injured leg and subsequently put up a video of himself walking on crutches.