With the new season, a new problem surfaced for the F1 paddock. Oddly enough, in just 3 races, there have already been 5 unsafe release offences. Australia saw both Haas cars suffering, Bahrain saw the bone-shattering Ferrari error which landed one crew member in the hospital. Now, a pitstop error has befallen McLaren.
McLaren became the third team to be fined for releasing a car in an unsafe condition for its pit stop during today’s second practice session. They were also booked for a similar offence in pre-season testing.
Stoffel Vandoorne’s car rolled onto the track with one of its wheels insufficiently tightened. Fortunately, Vandoorne noticed the problem on-track and stopped his car. Due to the breach of safety, the stewards fined McLaren €5,000 for the error.
“The stewards reviewed the video and audio of the pit stop of car two at 15:14 and heard from the team representative,” they noted in a statement. “The stewards determined that the car was released in an unsafe condition in breach of Art. 28.13(b) as the wheel was not properly attached to the car when released.
“The driver stopped the car in a safe manner as soon as the above became apparent to him.
“Consistent with previous decisions of a similar nature, the stewards decided that the grid place penalty mentioned in the above article would not be applied as the driver took all appropriate actions at the first available opportunity. Accordingly, the stewards fined the team €5,000.”
Both, Haas and Ferrari have been fined on two occasions for unsafe releases. In fact, Ferrari was fined €50,000 for the Bahrain incident which left a mechanic with a broken leg. The other three only had minor repercussions so €5,000 fines were imposed.
With 5 such instances of unsafe releases, one must wonder what is happening. All-electric series, Formula E had employed a fairly decent system of a minimum pitstop time wherein, drivers had to adhere to a minimum pitstop time, else suffer a penalty. This was mostly to prevent any pitstop error that could endanger personnel, and for the most part it worked. Soon, the FIA decided to take away the minimum pitstop time and leave everything in the drivers’ and teams’ hands. Amid fears that the risk factor would increase, there was a surprising lack of any pit lane mishaps. Is this the solution that Formula One needs?