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Bottas' wheel gun applied at wrong angle

NEWS STORY
27/05/2021

Mercedes chief strategist, James Vowles has revealed that the wheel nut issue that caused Valtteri Bottas' retirement in Monaco was due to the wheel gun being applied at the wrong angle.

Just one lap after world champion Lewis Hamilton pitted following a strategic call that was to prove disastrously wrong, teammate Valtteri Bottas headed into the Monaco pitlane.

Over the years, though never the quickest in terms of pit stops, Mercedes has been among the best, its double-stacking of its drivers at some events almost legendary.

However, as Bottas waited... and waited... and waited for the all-clear it was obvious that something was wrong, very wrong with his right-front wheel.

"Sitting in the car at the pit stop, I knew it was a slow one," the Finn subsequently told reporters, "and I was calculating Sainz getting past, then Norris, and when it got to thirty seconds, I couldn't believe it.

"It was a big mistake by us, as a team, to learn from," he continued. "If it is human error or a technical issue, it doesn't matter, we need to find the solution.

"If it's a human error, we need to support the guy who did it, but we need to learn from that, that's the main thing in my mind. And, at the same time, I'm super-disappointed."

In Mercedes latest video debrief, chief strategist, James Vowles explains the cause of the issue.

"The gun is an incredibly powerful gun," he explains, "such that you can actually see the mechanics having to restrain themselves holding themselves to the ground otherwise they get rotated with it at the same time.

"It's an impact force and what happens is the nut typically loosens in four or five impacts against it... a hammering action.

"Now, what happened is we came on slightly angled," he admits, "so when the socket was now connected to the nut, it slightly angled relative to it and as a result of that, now instead of distributing the load across all of the nut, it was across a small section and that tore the metal clean off and in fact, all of the metal was now removed from the nut.

"As a result of that, the nut was in place and we were unable to remove it."

Indeed, the team was unable to remove the wheel until it got the car back to itts Brackley HQ.

"Clearly, it's a circumstance that cost Valtteri dearly and cost the team dearly," admits Vowles, "and one that we are going to put steps in place to mitigate."

On Thursday, Mercedes issued a brief video revealing that the errant wheel nut had finally been removed.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Stitch431, 01/06/2021 8:18

"If Bottas would have finished on the podium it would have kept the team on top in the standings. But! It would have cost Lewis even more points and on top of that, it would be more difficult for Toto to say goodbye to Bottas when he wants to put Russel into the drive. If you look at a Red Bull pitstop, they already have the gun on before the car stops, and the angle is changing all the time. Seems to me, this was a hidden team order. But that is just my humble opinion."

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2. Posted by Wokingchap, 29/05/2021 11:32

"If the nut was tougher and the gun was designed to 'wear down' if it's not at the right angle, another gun can be used immediately."

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3. Posted by yakker, 28/05/2021 13:22

"This incident also should make drivers aware why they should stop in exactly the right position."

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4. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 27/05/2021 19:46

"@Wokingchap - probably can't harden the nut as you really don't want it wearing the threads on the axel. Much better to have the nut get damaged if anything has to.

Better would be to have a sensor on the gun that only allows it to operate if it's within some tolerance of being perfectly seated. But that might even not work as they start to work on loosening the nut before the car is even fully stopped."

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5. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 27/05/2021 18:52

"The teams that do the pit stops are amazing.

If you've ever even been near them at practice, away from a race, at factory say, you get a feeling of how hard it is to be a "wheel man".

The nut is usually loosend before the car stops.

The pressure to get it right and adjust if it goes wrong is very high.

I'm surprised there aren't more issues like what happened to Bottas last week.

The pit stops are an intregal part of what makes this a team sport and the guy that had this happen has probably had no issues for hundreds or more times so that has to be taken into account too."

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6. Posted by Superbird70, 27/05/2021 11:54

"I think the nut might be slightly softer so that the hub isn't damaged with repeated tightening and loosening."

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7. Posted by Wokingchap, 27/05/2021 9:46

"Whereas i feel for the guy who fuxxxd it, the design needs changeing.......so the 'gun' can be used at an angle and perhaps the metalurgy of the nut so its tougher. "

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