Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018

FIA to examine Ferrari’s “perplexing” pit stop error which injured a mechanic

2018 Bahrain Grand Prix

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The FIA intends to examine Ferrari’s error during Kimi Raikkonen’s pit stop which led to a mechanic being injured during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

It was one of two occasions during the race weekend that Ferrari sent Raikkonen from the pit box without fully tightening all his wheels.

Haas, which also uses Ferrari-designed rear wheel components, had two unsafe releases in Melbourne. FIA race director Charlie Whiting said the incidents are “looking less and less like a coincidence.”

Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018
Bahrain Grand Prix in pictures
“But the two instances in Melbourne were quite clearly wheel gun operator error. They cross-threaded the nuts, thought it was tight, came off, then realised a little bit too late that it wasn’t.”

Ferrari’s unsafe release during the Australian Grand Prix appeared to be different, said Whiting. “The guy hadn’t even taken the wheel off [before the car was released] which is slightly perplexing.”

He confirmed the FIA will look into the matter with Ferrari. “Alonso lost a wheel in testing and we went through it all with McLaren. They gave us a report, we discussed it with the Technical Working Group to understand, make sure everyone else realises these things can happen [and] everyone tries to learn from it.”

Ferrari was fined €50,000 for the unsafe release during the race, which left mechanic Francesco Cigarini with a broken leg, and a further €5,000 for a similar incident during practice in which no one was hurt.

Whiting does not believe stiffer penalties are needed to deter teams from taking too many risks during pit stops.

“The rules are very clear what happens during a race, the principle being that the driver stopping on the track is a big enough penalty,” he said.

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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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57 comments on “FIA to examine Ferrari’s “perplexing” pit stop error which injured a mechanic”

  1. How about the FIA just make lollipop men mandatory again. No machine error, sure the pit stop may be a few tenths longer, but it will be for everyone so it evens out. I’d rather have 3.5s pitstops with no one getting injured than 2.5s pitstops with things messing up every race.
    Another idea is that after a wheel is on, the guy on the gun presses a button to signal that the wheel is done, and the lights only go green when all 4 gunmen have confirmed their tyre is on.

    1. @hugh11 They already do that with regards to your last paragraph. The problem was that whilst 3 of the lights correctly went green because the wheels were successfully changed, for some reason the 4th light went green even though that wheel hadn’t even changed.
      Personally, I would prefer them to restrict the number of people per wheel to 1, as per F2.

      1. that’s an automatic green light input you are referring to. it is activated when all 4 wheels are detected in place on the car.

      2. @alfa145: I don’t think Ferrari operated a system like that. McLaren does (see the very next pit stop, the lights on the back of the “go” light had to fully go green before release–how they do that, is questionable: don’t assume that, because they *can* do a high-tech solution, that they will).

    2. How about the FIA just make lollipop men mandatory again.

      The way they banned Grid Girls, I doubt they want to have a guy there just to handle a sign on a stick.

      But I agree, an extra human giving a final go ahead might help with these things.
      This was not only dangerous, but ruined the races of 3 drivers, so far. There would still have been an impact for a long pit-stop in all 3 cases, but at least they might not have been completely out of it as a result.
      Ferrari’s case, though, seems a great deal more serious. Both in consequences and in possible causes.

    3. @hugh11 There also lot of unsafe release with lollipop man. Granted, a case like Kimi probably wouldn’t happened because the lollipop man can see the wheel isn’t changed yet, but cross threaded incident like the Haas wouldn’t be realized until it was too late.

      1. There was a man with a control box at the front left of the car in the Ferrari box, and another at the left rear. I assume the RR is there for fire control. The LF man had control of the lights, and couldn’t see the wheel problem because the guy with the new tire WAS IN THE WAY.

        (I have a better analysis of this in the €50k fine thread).

        Bottom line: stacked errors. Wheelman in the wrong place (ahead of axle line, blocking lollipop man’s view, in line of fire); no verbal communication (otherwise LM would know they had a stuck nut); visual sight lines compromised (LM could’ve stepped right to get a better view); finally, EVERYBODY knowing Kimi would jump the light the second the rear tires hit, no matter what.


    4. This red light green light nonsense cost Massa a championship many years back if I remember correctly. One time Massa drive off with the refueling hose hanging on his car…. and that was not the only incident with the automated release that year for Ferrari. Sub 3 second pit stops are incredible to watch but what good is it if you do not finish the race. That brings up another issue, before liberty and espn started slaughtering F1 coverage we in the U S of A would see statistics on the pit stops but no more. F1 viewers here is the states sees race stats that would of been amazing in 1952 or so.Thanks, Racer Norriski

      1. oh stop with your ifs and buts…. like its any 1 thing that decides a championship. You ask what good is it? well if you go restricting pit stops in the name of safety then why stop in the pit lane? Maybe restrict aero developement? or top speeds? All these things reduce risk right?

    5. This kind of foolish thinking is the reason we’re still far from having proper automation in so many places (driving being the prime example).

      Why is it that a machine error is so much “worse” than a human one. Human error is far, far more common than machine error, and even if we assume the incidents in questions are purely technial in nature, it is absolutely ridiculus to wish bringing back archaic human system which have caused just as much if not more issues.

      1. Human error is often far more comprehensible than machine error, since its causes are much closer to our own nature and understanding: being tired, being stressed, being drunk even. Software failures and shortcomings até more unpredictable in nature, even if it might be more rare. To say “our algorithm is 99% good but it couldn’t see the tree trunk ahead” simply doesn’t cut it, and calling people foolish and bringing up statistics, isn’t going to change their opinions, for they are, well, people, not machines. It just makes you look a bit simplistic and silly.

  2. Very good that the FIA are involved, to ensure that any changes/recommendations can be applied throughout the pit lane.

    1. @phylyp I’m perplexed that Whiting doesn’t know what happened yet.

      I have a punt. Anybody that has ever worked with air guns must be suspecting the same.
      Maybe the wheel gun was left on the wrong position or the wheel gun operator pressed the wrong button or selector. Usually air guns have a forward and reverse switch. Maybe the gun was left in the wrong position as a result of tightening the wheel on the previous pit stop, which would lead him to press the trigger and instead of loosening the wheel he tightened it, as this happens so quickly there was no time to press reverse and undo the wheel, so the car left with the wrong wheel on.

      1. Nah, the nut was jammed. The gunman asked for the back end to be dropped so he could get the tire to stop turning and help him hammer it off.

        They also always have two guns, in case one fails or can’t get the wheel off.

        1. @texarcana The tyre was static, that wasn’t the issue. Everyone knows there’s 2 guns, the problem wasn’t that gun but the guy behind it. I guess I was right. The mechanic tightened the wheel, rather than loosening it, the car dropped before he could undo the wheel, green light came and the mechanic had not time to rectify his mistake.

          1. @peartree I’m sorry, but I don’t think your right at all. Even tho these cars have the ability to limit wheelspin, they don’t do it with Torsen, plate diffs, or viscous diffs (too much power loss), so they go with open diffs & use brake application to control wheelspin. They just can’t use it during launch.

            Anyway, that mean that, with the other wheel off the ground, a stuck wheel nut will just spin the tire, and with upwards of 500-1000 ft-lbs of torque being applied, the wheelman can’t hold the tire effectively enough to get the tire loose. So, S.O.P. is to drop the car down so the weight of the car can hold the tire tight and allow the gunman to get the nut off.

            When that happened, the lollipop man mistook the axle drop for compliance, and released the car.

            The cause was poor people placement, and a lack of communication. Period.

          2. @texarcana Tyre wasn’t spinning period

    2. yes the fia should investigate, as well, because as it happened Kimi didn’t need to actually stop. and, likely would have won the race or be told to move over, if this incident hadn’t occurred.

      1. He stopped because he was ordered to stop.

        Besides, did you see the condition of the rear wheel they couldn’t get off? The edges of the tread were delaminating, in at least four spots that I could see. His tires were DONE.

      2. It’s not allowed to drive with different compounds on the wheels.
        He still had the soft on the rear and the supersoft on the other wheels.

    3. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
      10th April 2018, 8:44

      @phylyp I’m pretty sure a halo in front of mechanic’s legs would have saved his tibia

  3. I just watched it again on youtube in slow motion while only looking at the guy’s leg. Wish I hadn’t, ouch!

    1. I’m glad he only broke his leg, I was worried about a knee injury. While nasty and compound, shins heal pretty well, but knees can set you back with life-long issues.

      Maybe the FIA should give Mr. Cigarini the 50,000 euros, ha.

      1. @chaddy – +1 to the statement that a clean bone breakage (esp. a long bone) is the “best” outcome – knee/ankle injury, ligament injury, muscle injury can all cause permanent physical and quality-of-life damage to varying extents.

  4. There’s something to be said for the rules in many other series limiting the number of people allowed to work on a car in the pits.

    1. Make sense for the Flintstone series, not the pinnacle of motorsports.

  5. I’ve always thought 20 bees humming around the car during a stop was silly. I say do it like Indy where you have 1 person per wheel– it’s slower, but there’s something much more natural (and safe) about that setup. Sometimes people counter that a race can be unnaturally ruined by 1 mechanic, but we already see mechanics making huge mistakes in the current setup anyway.

    1. @chaddy

      I was thinking the same thing.

      Perplexed? A dozen guys servicing a burning hot 1000 hp race car while moving as fast as humanly possible.

      What could possibly go wrong?

      Seriously, the impressive thing is they manage the risks so we’ll. It isn’t perplexing, just a failure to learn from.

      1. They’ve gone from 20-30 second pit stops with fuel and tire changes (looking like an Italian fire drill), to a symphony of 2.5 second tire changes, with to be honest VERY FEW injuries in the, what, 15 years since they ditched refueling.

        Simply: Ferrari made mistakes that compounded into this catastrophe. And they must make changes to fix it.

        1. @texarcana

          what, 15 years since they ditched refueling.

          this year is the 9th.

          1. @mike-dee 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

          2. You are right – I thought it was banned in 2009, but that was when they changed all the aero only, fuelling only banned from 2010. @davidnotcoulthard

  6. Ferrari facing a grid penalty for this on the next race?

    1. @bilarxos I doubt it. I think they aren’t going to receive any more penalties than the fine they’ve already received. We shall wait and see.

      1. But according to this maybe they going to have:

        Also relase the car with 1 different compound on it (not on track altough only in pit lane, they can push it back).
        I remember Williams 2015 penalty for the same thing in Spa with Bottas.
        As you correct said “We shall wait and see.”

      2. They already lost millions with the car retiring. Not to mention a race engineer that they have to replace.

        1. Have to replace.. good to see you attention for the human factor here.

  7. There’s one thing to take in to consideration is, that Francesco seems to be the only one that delivers the tyre from the front towards the back.. Therefore he stands in the path of the rear tyre when/if the car is released to early..
    All the other mechanics swoops in from behind with the fresh rubber and are out of harms way..

    1. @meko1971 I believe this is natural as a right handed person stands behind the tyre on the right rear corner of the car but in front of the tyre on the left rear corner of the car. I suspect other teams might be doing the same.

      1. I agree with you, but what I could see from this video Renault and Force India together with Ferrari uses a guy standing in front of the tyre and the rest doesn’t, but we’ll see what comes out of this..

        1. @meko1971
          The video is wrong – just watched Toro Rosso and Mercedes though – they also have a mechanic in front of the wheel while they take off the wheel. And that was exactly the phase Ferrari were in – they were still trying to take off the wheel, so a mechanic was in front of the wheel.

          1. @mike-dee
            Everyone has a mechanic in front of the wheel, BUT neither Toro Rosso or Mercedes has that mechanic standing there with a tyre ready to go on, they are waiting to take one off.. The Ferrari mechanic that got hit normally dives out of the way ones the tyre is on, but now he wasn’t able to do that..

      2. I doubt the handedness has anything to do with it at all. The teams practice and video tape their practice pitstops million times and do small changes if they think they can find a tenth of a second somewhere. It is just that ferrari has come to different choreography than some other teams. Maybe one style is better for getting the tire off the car while other style is faster at putting the tire back on the car.

        Last year ferrari also had shorter car so there was less space between the front and rear tire guys on left and right. This pit choreography could be just a carry over from the older shorter car where there was not enough space to have guys holding tires on each side of the car.

        That being said the guy is standing right in front of the tire. I can’t imagine that being the way ferrari has practiced the pitstop.

  8. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
    9th April 2018, 19:33

    Rewatch the pit stop. When you do, focus on the rear jackman. He never ONCE looks at the left rear tire changer/carrier. Instead, his entire focus is on the right rear guys. As soon as they are done, he drops the jack and off Kimi went. While I don’t want to put blame on a single guy, I would have to fault him the most.

    1. thedolphins
      9th April 2018, 19:58

      It’s my understanding that some/all teams have the system integrated into their front jacks such that when the light goes green the jack automatically releases & it’s the jack man’s job to just pull it out & away of the car’s path. Would it not stand to reason then that the rear jack would function the same way?

      1. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
        9th April 2018, 20:27

        It’s my understanding that the light uses a combination of the two jacks. If you look at the replay, you’ll notice the rear jack is wired up, which seems to lend to that summation, though I might not be fully correct in that the air guns might also be used for the light.

        Either way, if the rear jack doesn’t drop, the car goes nowhere.

        1. Marc Priestley, former McLaren mechanic, did a good explanation what exactly happens at the stops and how the light system works. You can check it out here:

          The rear jack just has to look at the lights on his jack, when the two rear tyre guns are getting green, the jack lights up and should lower the car automatically. If that doesn’t happen, the rear jack man has to do it manually – he just looks at the lights on his jack and nothing else. Or thats what he should do.

    2. shades of eddie irvine at suzuka

    3. @thedophins: Negative. He does look at the gunman, has a confused look on his face (as does the backup jackman, who has a pneumatic jack in case the primary fails, @braketurnaccelerate); he starts to lower the car, pauses slightly, then sets it down, so the gunman can apply full torque to a stuck nut. Since the lollipop man can’t see (and apparently hasn’t been told) what’s going on (the fat guy at the right front), he hits the light, and catastrophe.

  9. Why didn’t they push Kimi back to the box and change the last tire? With the gap to Gasly surely they could have still kept 4th place.

    1. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
      10th April 2018, 8:41

      You can’t reverse in pit-lane and you can’t join the track with wheels of a different set @jonnypwtf

    2. I was wondering this too, he stopped in the pitlane and could be pushed back by the mechanics. The only reason I could think of was that there was an injured crewman in the pitbox so the car couldn’t be pushed back.

      Seems like a waste of some reasonable points though.

    3. @jonnypwtf the car can only be serviced within the confines of the pit box, and there was no way to safely move the mechanic without knowing the extent of his injuries at that time. The right call but very very harsh on Kimi (as always it’s Kimi)

  10. plus, it was more exciting with the lollipop man or perhaps they could make it a woman now.
    liberty would approve!

  11. Wait, couldn’t they push his car back and change the tire that they didn’t change? Or is that forbidden?

  12. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the underlying reason here is a visual perception one. You may think that you see a single scene in front of you but in actual fact your brain moves its attention around a scene particularly where there is movement and integrates into a single view of the scene that you are conscious of. So you could have a couple of scenarios here given the very short duration the pit stop, either after looking elsewhere when spotter’s perception returned to the left rear side there was a relatively static scene that resembled a completed tyre change or the spotter’s attention was naturally drawn to the right rear where there was more movement (as someone noticed above) or a combination of both these. Contrary to many views the better answer here may actually to take humans more out of the decision process e.g. more sensors in the car to detect wheels changed – you will always need a human in the loop for scenarios that have not been catered for including equipment failure.

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