Wheels literally come off Haas' bid for Melbourne glory


In the space of a few minutes what looked set to be the American outfit's best result ended in disaster as Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were forced into retirement after mistakes during their pit stops saw both drivers released with loose wheels.

Running fourth (Magnussen) and fifth (Grosjean), the Dane was first to pit followed, two laps later, by his French teammate.

However, while Magnussen was sent back out with his left-rear still not attached properly, shortly after Grosjean was released with his left-front not secured. To make matters worse, it was Grosjean's retirement which necessitated the deployment of the VSC, which was to turn the race on its head, with Sebastian Vettel taking the lead from Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes suffered a software glitch that left the German team unaware of the correct gap to the Ferrari driver.

"It's very disappointing," said Haas team boss Guenther Steiner in a masterpiece of understatement. "The good thing we can take away from this is that the car is competitive.

"We just need to get our heads up again, to get well prepared for Bahrain," he added. "We'll focus on that one and get our pit stops sorted out."

"It's a very tough one to swallow for the whole team," said Magnussen. "To have both cars not finishing – having been in such good positions and with so much anticipation – it's just heart-breaking to finish like that. We'll get on top again. We'll fight back. I'm beyond disappointed right now, but we'll get over it."

"We had a good car all weekend," added Grosjean. "I was happy with our low and high-fuel pace. I had great pace today, and I'm sure I could have stayed a bit more with the frontrunners if I'd been in front of Kevin early in the race.

"We'll now analyse everything and work out what happened exactly. We'll come back stronger as we always do. It's a lot of points lost today, but if we can repeat that performance over and over, we're going to forget this very quickly."

To add to the team's misery, the race stewards subsequently fined the American outfit 10,000 euros having determined that both drivers were released in an unsafe condition in beach of Art. 28.13.c. of the Sporting Regulations.

Evidence of the high emotions within the team was clear when the TV cameras cut to the paddock shortly after the double-retirement, a number of crew members were seen to be very upset. Indeed, one still had his helmet firmly in place reminiscent of drivers who opt to keep their helmets on following an error.

Steiner subsequently revealed that in both cases the wheelnuts were cross-threaded. "It was just a bad pit stop," said the Italian. "The wheelnut was on but it was cross-threaded. That doesn't tighten the wheel up but for the mechanic, it feels like it is tightened and it wasn't.

"Sometimes, these pit stops, they are so quick you have no time to check it and they didn't check," he added. "These things happen. What can you do?"

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Published: 25/03/2018
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