Romain Grosjean, Haas, Albert Park, 2018

Haas didn’t experience “freak” wheel nut problem in testing

2018 Australian Grand Prix

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The wheel nut problem which put both Haas drivers out of the Australian Grand Prix was a “freak” incident which the team hadn’t previously experienced.

Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean both retired from the race after being let out of the pits with wheels not fully tightened. The pair had run as high as fourth and fifth at one stage, which would have been Haas’s best ever finishing position.

Team principal Guenther Steiner said they are still investigating why their pit stops went wrong.

Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Albert Park, 2018
2018 Australian Grand Prix in pictures
“It was just a bad pit stop,” he said. “The wheel nut got on wrong and it was cross-threaded. We couldn’t catch it early enough and that’s what happened. You work in a two-and-a-half second window to do this and we were unlucky.”

The team hasn’t changed its pit crew since last year, Steiner added. “It’s one of these things, it’s unbelievable, if you try to explain it [people] would say it’s not possible. But it seems they are possible so we just have to deal with it and get it better for Bahrain.”

“It’s high risk this,” he added. “If it goes wrong, normally it doesn’t go wrong in one race when you are in this position, twice.”

“This is a freak incident. We need to keep our heads up. We know we have a good year in front of us. We need to just analyse what actually happened and how can we make it that it doesn’t happen again.”

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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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  • 50 comments on “Haas didn’t experience “freak” wheel nut problem in testing”

    1. His explanation doesn’t tally at all with the reaction of the pit crew. They knew it was wrong. Not human error only discovered afterwards, but something they realised straight away.

      1. I just think it’s interesting that a team that owns so much to Ferrari has a freak nut problem in a perfect moment for Vettel to get lucky :)

        1. Even if that were true, Why sacrifice both cars?

          1. It optimizes the chance of got it right ?

            1. To get it right*

            2. Its not that hard.

              Also why would they throw their mechanics under a bus like that.
              Its Haas the team that literally is funded by tools.
              Driver error is much more effective and certain to bring take out the car.
              Its not a high school project, these people know what they are doing.

              Also, look who you are dealing with. Its Gene Haas team, he would gain much more from a 4-5 placement. People tend to forget that its a to-way deal between Haas and Ferrari. They are not a junior team.

    2. Feel gutted for them. Especially because they were on for their best result ever.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        25th March 2018, 17:43

        @todfod Why on earth would you feel gutted for them? Do you know the odds of 2 failures back-to-back to mount a tyre with different guns? They’ve changed plenty of tyres over the years. Do you know the odds of the errors helping a Ferrari driver win a race?

        Usually odds are between 0 and 100% but I think this might be in the negative category and is well beyond reasonable doubt.

        Gunther Steiner wasn’t holding his head down because he was upset, he was too shameful to keep his head high. I think Haas is going to find it very hard to find a single fan after what they did today.

        My advice to Haas, take your name off the team and sell it tomorrow (don’t even wait for Tuesday).

        1. If Haas intended to bring out a safety car why would they sabotage both of their cars? and why would Ferrari use Haas to bring out a safety car rather than the Sauber which was running outside of the points? I don’t think you’ve thought this through.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            25th March 2018, 20:00

            Well, obviously Magnussen failed to get a VSC out – he seemed nonplussed unlike Grosjean who gave an Oscar worthy performance. Is it simple coincidence that a lap later Grosjean had the exact same issue and brought one out?

            1. You’re a fool if you honestly believe the nonsense that you’re letting come out of your mouth right now. If Kevin really wanted to bring out the safety car then he would’ve simply allowed himself to stop right on track, instead he pulled well off to the side.

            2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
              26th March 2018, 1:39

              @nsfrocks you don’t have to tell me that I’m a fool – I already know that:-)
              That doesn’t make me wrong. 4 wheels, 20 cars, 20 races, 2 pit stops on average per race.

              3,200 wheels changed during a race.

              What’s the number of failures per season during a race – 10. That’s 1/320.

              Back to back failure?

              1/320 * 1/320 = 1/102,400

              Odds of that happening at a time that it can help secure a victory for the engine manufacturer:

              1/1,000

              Even if the math is wrong, you are 999,999 times more likely to be wrong than I am. If I’m a fool, you do the math:-)

            3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
              26th March 2018, 1:39

              Correction 3,200 wheels changed during a season during races.

            4. The problem with your probably calculation is that you are assuming two things that are unreasonable. One that all weeks changed over the year come from a population of well designed weeks and nuts, where a failure is unlikely and maybe coming from human error. And two that both tire changes within the hassle team are independent from each other and hence the joint probably can be obtained from multiplying the two. Clearly this last assumption is false as both cars share team and hence design, supplies, mechanics etc. Other than those critical errors your math is fine. Result is totally off though….

          2. why would Ferrari use Haas to bring out a safety car rather than the Sauber which was running outside of the points?

            Lots of possible reasons. Maybe Sauber is more honest than Haas. Maybe some obscure politics. Maybe any one of other 1000 possibilities. Just like with Spygate 2008 we will probably never know every single detail, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

            If Haas intended to bring out a safety car why would they sabotage both of their cars?

            Still, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist for this one. People tend tro try things twice when… well, maybe when the first time it didn’t work?

        2. First of all they didn’t need to stop both cars if the intention was to favors Ferrari. Second, it would be easily to make it with Leclerc, it would have called less attention. And Sauber is more a B team than Hass and it had nothing to lose.

          I think you’re just lazy enough to don’t use your brain before writing something on internet.

          1. like greatest propaganda people say; “if you want to lie, make to lie BIG, so no one believes its a lie”. if the would of use one sauber car, everyone would of noticed, stupido..

            1. True, but still, I really don’t believe they sacrificed such a result with both cars to make ferrari win, think it’s just a coincidence, remember giovinazzi last year? He got a VSC out and he was ferrari junior, that VSC helped hamilton win, so as you can see.

          2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            25th March 2018, 23:57

            Do the math

        3. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *deep inhale* HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

          Who let you use the internet without your helmet?

          1. I agree it’s highly unlikely in this case, but I can remember being treated with some of the same derision for suggesting Piquet Junior’s crash at Singapore 2008 was on purpose. And look how that panned out.

            1. @david-br: Don’t feel like doing internet archaelogy, but I’ll bet euros against donuts right now that @nsfrocks made just the same reply in 2008 after somebody suggested there was something wrong with Piquet’s crash.

    3. How difficult can it be sometimes for the person responsible for operating the light system to wait till he’s entirely sure that all the tyres are fully fitted before giving the green light?

      1. It’s done by the Wheel guns. Each gun sends a ready-check and when all 4 reports “Ready”, lights go green.
        If Haas has the green check coming when gun detaches from whell nut or by a key-press on gun by mechanic I do not know.
        There should be a 5th ready-check from an obervating person or better the other way around, he can stop lights from going green if he presses an “abort”-key”.

      2. @jerejj – However, waiting that extra fraction of a second could cost them track position in all the other GPs where they don’t have a problem. With tenths of a second making a difference in track position, they aim to be “fast and right”.

        It’s also the same reason why the pitwall didn’t immediately halt either car in the pitlane despite the Haas pit box being quite far from the pit exit and the crew crossing their arms almost immediately after the car pulled away – while that would be the cautious and safe approach, they’d rather be sure there’s a problem that needs addressing rather than needlessly halt a car for something which in retrospect is minor (e.g. a tear-off strip in the front wing that wasn’t cleaned off during the stop).

        Of course, such an “on the edge” approach can backfire dramatically as seen today.

        That said, this approach to decision making is something that I haven’t accepted, it’s just something I tell myself is the way F1 works! Professionally and personally, I’m a cautious “measure twice cut once” type of person, so I too have the same line of thought as you when you posed this question. But my attitude is also probably why I’m sat on a couch and not a pitwall :-)

        1. @phylyp I agree with you regarding your point, but still, though, I’d rather they wait for a couple of seconds longer to get all tyres fully fitted and take the penalty of losing track position than give the green light too quickly and then subsequently DNF because of something being loose, which is a far severe penalty than just losing track position.

          1. @jerejj – quite true, and I’m sure Haas (and other teams) will be re-evaluating their pit release procedures to see if any improvement is warranted.

            It is interesting that this is a problem that has emerged only since refuelling was halted, as otherwise it was the refuelling process that took longer, keeping the pressure off the wheelmen.

    4. Thats why sometimes its good to have failures during tests… See Mclaren :p

      1. Would be good advice for Toro Rosso too

        1. Torro Rosso have had a number of years to watch Honda – It would have been a surprise if it had gone well, so its difficult to feel sorry for them.

    5. I am in favor for a system that everyw heel gun operator has to press a button before a car is electronically released to go.
      No four buttons pressed, the gas pedal will do nothing.

      1. You are not allowed to automate the throttle like that. The driver drives the car and thats it.

        The 4 buttons pressed before a green light is already in place.

    6. My big worry every time a wheel is improperly attached and the car leaves the pits is that it entirely nullifies the tethers, since the tethers are connected to the hub, and if the hub isn’t attached to the wheel, it means the wheel can come loose and be untethered.

      On the other hand, I feel there are 3 mitigating circumstances: 1) cars with improperly fitted wheels usually cannot come up to speed, so cannot generate as high a momentum as would happen in a crash 2) catch fencing provides a secondary level of safety to spectators and trackside personnel 3) the Halo will keep wheels away from drivers.

      Having said all that, I really think that a paltry fine of €5,000 is no deterrent. I think that the fences on the front wing easily cost more than that! I’d argue that the penalty ought to be stricter, and be in terms that a team understands – an improperly fitted wheel should mean the car retires from the race (even if the car stops in the pitlane and is wheeled back), and any car that drives out the pitlane earns a grid drop in the next race (in addition to it retiring from the current race).

      1. Did You see the Haas pit crew? Do You really think it is necessary to punish the teams even more to avoid this in the future?

        1. +1 That was an entire team that just wanted to lay down in fetal position and cry their hearts out.

        2. Yes, I felt gutted for Haas, especially after it seemed that in 2018 they could replicate and surpass their highs of 2016 after a lousy 2017.

          But to me, this is a safety issue, and not specific to Haas – allowing a car to leave the pit lane in an unsafe manner. That edges towards a willful decision of prioritizing speed over everything else.

          If the TV directors are able to quickly realize something is amiss based on the pit crew’s reaction and start tracking that car on camera, then the pit wall must be able to respond much faster.

      2. With the current wheel nuts, aren’t they supposed to keep the wheel on the hub, even if it is not completely fastened though @phylyp? Pretty sure that was the change they made after the few incidents we recently saw with wheels coming off, exactly for the reason you mention.

        I must say I find it disconcerting that in both instances the wheel gun operator signalled that they were NOT ready, but the lights had already turned green and they let the car drive off.

        1. @bascb
          I think it was a matter of one second or so in either case. The lights go green a few tenths after the wheel gun is off. The operator perhaps spotted (and also got a confirmation) only the moment at which tyres started moving–lights green by then.
          Agreed they could have taken the extra “precautionary moment” for a minor check during Romain’s stop because Kevin pitted first and it went bad. But then, it was different gun, different operator, different tyre. In such intense moments, humans are prone to making a lot of errors, especially when they don’t have the luxury of time.
          But the biggest positive would be that they were able to defend the Red Bulls. Intriguing season coming up.

          1. @webtel, all of the procedures are there to ensure that no car leaves with a wheel unsufficiently attached. This means that the lollypop man should only raise it when he/she sees ALL wheelgun operators giving the sign that everything is ok.They should not have “taken the extra precautionary moment”, they clearly went against their own procedures (because those call to release the car only once all is clear).

            As for what exactly happened, I am sure both the FIA but most of all the team has to look into that. They will make sure this doesn’t happen again. But the dangerous part here is, that with a different failure they could well release the car again.

            Since the introduction of those lights – to make it go faster – we have seen numerous instances where the lights turned green before everything was ok. This is a failure of the most basic thing: not allowing the car to drive away in such an instance, regardless of exactly what went wrong.

            1. @bascb
              Agree with the last para.
              The light changed to green even when the mechanic started waving his hands. Am sure the mechanic controlling the light (if there is one) has to be questioned for i dont know how he failed to see those hands waving. And if there was a lollypop man (don’t remember seeing one), false releases could well be mitigated. The stop was entirely controlled by the lights o think. Nevertheless, teams have been able to perfect the art of orchestrating fast pit-stops. Steiner admitted that they lacked practice over the weekend. Its an oversight. Shouldn’t happen again, hopefully.

    7. If this was a freak accident why do you need to investigate it further Gunther?

    8. Ferrari slipped in a gun and a mechanic lololol

    9. Haas is the Dark hores Horner spoke of all the time and Ironic that both his cars had a hard time trying to overtake them.

    10. The Pace of the Haas cars was impressive!!

    11. Hey, even I saw the crew member waving off the release, to stop it, and the light/flag man released anyway!

    12. Incredible. The american team had a gun problem !!!

    13. Debra Harrington
      26th March 2018, 3:28

      Great discussion and education on possible “unfreaky” explanations. Your dry witt made it easier to stop hitting my head on the wall.

    14. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      26th March 2018, 20:28

      Just curious, will there be an investigation at least or is that the end of another one-in-a-million situation that seem to only afflict F1?

      Do the fans here at least know who provides the wheel nuts for the teams? Is it Pirelli, Haas (in-house), or Ferrari?

    15. Interestingly, corner workers reported the nuts on both Haas cars appeared tight!!!!

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