Whitmarsh: Rim failure put Hamilton out

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A broken wheel rim ended Hamilton's race in Spain

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the team lost second place in the Spanish Grand Prix because of wheel rim failure.

The rim failed on Lewis Hamilton’s car on the penultimate lap of the race, sending him straight into the barriers.

Speaking during the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in Whitmarsh said the team are still investigating what caused the rim to fail:

We flew the parts back yesterday and had Bridgestone here. We do not believe that the deflation was caused by a puncture or tyre failure. From all the evidence it looks like the rim failed which caused deflation.

The rim failure is being investigated. It could be debris related, it could be an issue of deflection, it could be an issue of tightness or lack of in the wheel nut allowing some flexing.

So what we know is, the rim failed, probably human error somewhere in that process caused that, which led to deflation and the accident.
Martin Whitmarsh

Heikki Kovalainen suffered a similar crash in a McLaren at the same race in 2008.

Here’s what else he had to say in the interview: Whitmarsh disappointed by F-duct ban

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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48 comments on “Whitmarsh: Rim failure put Hamilton out”

  1. spanky the wonder monkey
    11th May 2010, 12:33

    some of the extreme slow mo shots of the macca before the race showed a lot of tyre deflection wobble in the front wheels. contributing factor?

    1. Not really, it’s normal tire behaviour because the tall sidewall acts as an aid to the suspension. I’d rather go for a stone getting caught in the rim and basically machining it off.

      1. @Victor,

        Just out of interest where would the stone have to be lodged to cause such a problem? Do they get lodged between the tyre and wheel?

        1. Somewhere between the wheel rim and the drum that holds the brake disc and wheel hub assembly, I guess.

        2. spanky the wonder monkey
          11th May 2010, 12:44

          was wondering the same. if it’s caught between tyre and wheel, then it rotates with tyre and wheel. however any lateral movement will cause a pressure point as forces are applied and released to the stone, thus weakening the part of the wheel rim which is in contact with the stone / foreign object.

    2. spanky the wonder monkey
      11th May 2010, 12:39

      in the replay, there appeared to be a large-ish section (4″ curved something-or-other) of wheel rim flying off the wheel just before the deflation. just wondering if the tyre deflection was a contributing factor to a weakening of this section of wheel rim.

      1. Generally it shouldn’t be. Someone posted an onboard screenshot comparison somewhere which indicated that Kovalainen’s wheel failed in 2008 in the exact same manner and with the same kind of debris coming off the rim, and if I remember correctly, that was due to debris in the rim.

        1. Yes, that what came to mind to me aswell.

        2. I may be wrong but im sure Kovys failure in Spain was a manufacturing error, i think parts of the wheel had had some sort of coating before being welded together, instead of after, and as a result didnt stick together properly.

    3. I noticed that as well when I slowed the video down. You can clearly see the wheel tilt over to the left when he turned the steering wheel. It’s like the wheel was loose.

      1. Indeed,

        I posted an animation showing how the left wheel wobbles on steering when the right one doesn’t:

  2. I also wonder if a manufacturing error is to blame or Lewis’s aggressive driving? I hope it isnt the latter. Lewis put in an excellent drive in Spain and I dont want him to be disheartened or discouraged from driving in the entertaining way he does because of this.

    1. FelipeBabyStayCool
      11th May 2010, 13:25

      We all like aggresive driving, but it doesn’t come without a cost. Pushing the limits is much of what F1 is all about, but you can’t do it without increasing the risk of mechanical breakdowns or accidents, possibly lethal ones. This is a fact of life and not just about a particular incident or driver.

      Of course I don’t mean that F1 drivers have to play it safe above everything else, that would be the end of the sport. But sheer recklessness isn’t the way, either. Every driver needs to strike a balance. There will always be Prosts and Sennas. But Senna (my fave ever) got killed.

      1. But this has nothing to do with Hamilton’s driving style – see links:



        It doesn’t matter what those in the know say because Hamilton will forever have the armchair experts who just hate him while simultaneously not having a clue.

        1. “see links”… to two stories which contain no new information beyond what’s in the original article?

          1. FelipeBabyStayCool obviously needs to read it 3 times for it to sink in!

        2. FelipeBabyStayCool
          11th May 2010, 19:10

          Did you read my comment? I explicitly wrote it was not about a particular incident nor a particular driver. Now tell me exactly what did I say that was wrong.

        3. BeyondThe Pale
          11th May 2010, 19:43

          Reading carefully all the available info all we know is that the rim failed for an unknown reason. If it had anything to do with LH’s driving style is not yet discarded.

  3. Keith, did anyone ask Whitmarsh about an exhaust powered diffuser an whether McLaren will be getting one? Seems to be the only way there going to close the gap.

    If Redbull get an F-Duct an continue to improve their diffuser, which development of which apparently delivers whole half seconds, there going to be invincible.

    An this Ferrari B-Spec diffuser, possibly exhaust powered?

    1. Ah but would it be symmetrical.. ;-)

    2. No it didn’t come up. Here’s the rest of the interview: Whitmarsh disappointed by F-duct ban

    3. McLaren and other teams worked on this in the late 90s. A disruption of downforce off-throttle, for example, entering a corner, was a fatal flaw of the approach. And I think without turbos and with the “freeze”, exhaust manifold shape is more important relative to this possible gain.

      1. Well, clearly Newey has found a way to solve this problem, proof positive came in China the vorticies around the back wheels, an the flow from the diffuser where mad.

        1. From what I have heard, the fact that the RB has pull-rod suspension means that this exhaust-blown diffuser can function alot better then if it was push-rod. Which all the other teams are using.

          1. Mr. Zing Zang
            12th May 2010, 3:21

            The RB exhaust is just a few cm lower than the exhaust of other cars. AND it can not blow the diffuser from there. The general hot air stream is not that different from other cars; All of the exhaust streams from all the cars go over the diffuser.
            This is so obvious, it’s not something that other teams haven’t thought about you know. The reason the RB exhaust is down there is to aid flow ABOVE it. Look carefully on the redbull and you will see what is going on.

          2. I think McLaren agrees with Zing Zang

  4. I remember one image in which Hamilton passes on the gravel to take some curves and puts some gravel on the circuit (and then Hulkenberg trying to avoid it)… maybe at that point one of the stones ended in the rim. Just a guess.

  5. The tyre was already tilting to the left as soon as he entered that corner before it caught the rest of the body to cause the deflating contact, hence sending him to the left and str8 into the wall. So me thinks it was that suspect pit stop who did not pull a good change of tyre.

  6. Hamilton’s aggressive driving clearly caused the rim to fail. Just like it did last year in Kovalainen’s car, which was also his fault. He ought to be sacked, or at least made to pay for the repairs. When Raikkonen’s wings kept flying off and his engines exploding, McLaren should have cashiered him as well.

    1. Rubbish Dave
      11th May 2010, 14:59

      “Hamilton’s aggressive driving clearly caused the rim to fail.” Evidence? There’s none to suggest it beyond your own bias.

      “Just like it did last year in Kovalainen’s car, which was also his fault. ”
      That was 2008, not last year and the failure there was due to a faulty wheel, not driver induced at all.

      1. @RubbishDave

        The post you are referring to was clearly a joke mocking those that always blame hamiltons driving for everything that is bad in the world…..

        Having said that though I have a sneaking suspicion that his driving in malaysia somehow triggered the icelandic volcano…..

    2. Obvious troll is obvious..

  7. I uploaded some frames of the incident. The first frame shows the blowout. It shows a spark along the rim and a piece falling onto the front suspension. In the next frames this piece flies away.




    1. good job buddy….nice work

    2. It’s more or less a full-circumference piece, so it does look like debris sliced the rim.

      1. yep, thats what I was saying on some spanish blog, but you know, they just believe what they want to believe :P

      2. That’s what I thought too. Doesn’t look like that’s the piece that caused the tyre failure. Rather it looks like a slice of rubber, especially from the way it flexes in the shots when it is launched away from the wheel.

        So either the piece of debris is still there (attached to the rim?), or it was the rim itself which had been sharpened (possibly by a piece of debris which had already disappeared before the first shot Patrickl posted) which sliced the tyre up.

        1. I didn’t see anything in the frames just before the blowout

    3. I noticed the left wheel wobbled a lot on turning too.

      I collected two frames showing Hamilton turning left and right. The left part of the animation shows the left wheel wobbling on steering. The right of the animation shows the (mirrored) right wheel which doesn’t wobble:


      So it looks like the left front wheel was loose. I’d assume that causes additional load on the wheel/tyre.

  8. What reason to trash the 3rd pedal did the FIA come up with on the late 90s Mclaren car.
    The pedal that enabled front & rear brakes to operate seperately?
    Come on Macca

  9. Lewis’ driving style hasn’t been a big problem ever.
    Only in turkey he did push the tyres a bit.
    But he barely crashes and he doesn’t have many dnf’s either. I don’t think any mechanical failure has been his fault. So please stop crying about it.

    I did see many gravel on track so this might be the reason. I was so gutted for Lewis who has been driving brilliantly this year! His wc position isn’t representive atm

    1. It’s hard on the driver when the machinery lets them down. Right now I feel more sympathy for Vettel — his championship position is even less representive!

  10. It seems like I was wrong, I thought that the reason why the tyre went off because if Lewis driving the car too aggressively. It was a tough luck for him may be Monaco be the place where his luck changes.

  11. I suspect that this “Lewis’ driving style caused it” is part of one of these new buzz phrases, If he’s engine blows next race I’ll expect to hear it again.

    Maybe he does have a different driving style, but unless he is actually driving badly I doubt it will cause his car to have more mechanical issues than Buttons. and so far I haven’t seen any evidence that really supports it.

  12. There is evidence to suggest that drivers with a more ‘aggressive’ driving style do put more stress on the cars components than a driver that has a ‘less aggressive’ driving style. Just logic really.

    That seems not to be the case in this instance though, ‘if’ it can be seen that debris caused the failure.

    1. Yeah that’s the problem. It’s a self perpetuating rumour. It makes no sense at all, but there are always “experts” keen to repeat this nugget of nonsensical wisdom.

  13. Surely if a stone was caught in the rim it would be out of balance enough for Hamilton to detect it and report it.

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