Mercedes reveal Bottas’ wheel is still stuck on his car – and can only be removed at the factory
Wondering how Mercedes eventually got the wheel off Valtteri Bottas’ car after his disastrous Monaco Grand Prix-ending pit stop? The answer is they didn’t – with Mercedes’ Technical Director James Allison revealing after the race that the team would need to hack the wheel off back at their UK factory.
Bottas was running in a comfortable P2 at Monte Carlo when Mercedes called him in for his first stop on Lap 30. But in a more extreme version of the pit stop error that cost Bottas at the Bahrain Grand Prix, an issue with the wheel gun left Mercedes unable to change the Finn’s front right tyre – a tyre that was still on the car as Mercedes packed up after a lacklustre Monaco Grand Prix, with Bottas left with no option but to retire as team mate Lewis Hamilton finished an unhappy P7.
“We eventually didn't get the wheel off,” laughed Allison when asked how Mercedes had removed the wheel. “It's sat in our garage with the wheels still on it. It will have to be ground off, get a Dremel out [a rotary tool] and painfully slice through the remnants of the wheel nut. We'll do that back at the factory.
“It was a more extreme repeat of the thing we've talked about in public before,” added Allison, “which is if we don't quite get the pit stop gun cleanly on the nut, then it can chip away at the driving faces of the nut – we call it machining the nut.
“It's a little bit like when you take a Phillips head screwdriver and you don't get it squarely in the cross of the screwdriver and you start to round off the driving face of the screwdriver slots, and then you just simply can't take the screw out of whatever it is you're trying to take it out of, because you've no longer got the driving faces.
“If the gun starts spinning and chipping off the driving faces of the wheel nut, then in quite short order, given the violence and the power of the gun, you can end up with no driving faces and you've just machined the nut down to a place where there's nothing left to grab hold of. And that's what we had today.”
Allison went on to evocatively describe the mood in the Mercedes camp after Monaco as being “lower than a snake’s belly”. But for all their disappointment, he was at least assured that Bottas’ retirement hadn’t cost the team the chance of victory, with Allison saying that nothing could have prevented Red Bull’s Max Verstappen from cruising to the win in Monaco.
“[Valtteri’s] first stint was fine, he did a good job, looked after the car as best he could,” said Allison. “With the nature of this circuit, there was never going to be an overtake opportunity, and the only question is what sort of pace are you going to have left to play with around the time where you're deciding whether it's undercut or overcut time.
“He did a good job of leaving us with an ability to protect the second place with a car that was never going to challenge Max today for first. So he did a good job and would have had a comfy run to second without the failure in the pit stop.”