Romain Grosjean, Haas, Albert Park, 2018

Steiner warns against knee-jerk reaction to pit lane safety fears

2018 F1 season

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Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said Formula One shouldn’t over-react to the pit stop safety problems seen in Australia and Bahrain.

Both Steiner’s cars retired from the season-opening race because they were sent out of the pits with loose wheels. In Bahrain a Ferrari mechanic was injured in one of two unsafe release incidents involving the team.

However Steiner believes F1 should be wary of introducing further restrictions on how teams can perform pit stops.

“I think our pit stop, for us it didn’t make it interesting, but it gives another element of interest,” he said. “If you make everything 100% safe, why the hell do we watch F1 racing? That’s my opinion.

“We need to have this, where the human being can make a mistake. It happened to us and I’m not happy about it but in general we need some risk-taking. If you make everything automotised we can put robots there and we do it and there will be no problem but then who is going to watch us?

“I’m not saying that we should put people in danger,” he added, “but how many years since we had the last injured man?

“We still know it’s a dangerous sport, things can happen. Playing football somebody breaks their leg. Again, I feel sorry about the guy and I think it shouldn’t happen, but it happened, and we cannot make it right anyway.”

Steiner pointed out the devices intended to prevent wheels detaching from cars, introduced in recent seasons, had worked.

“The system worked, so why are we going to change it? Yes, we had a loose wheel, who paid the consequences? The people who put it on. Nobody else.

“I wouldn’t rush to a knee-jerk reaction after what happened. It was clearly our fault, we paid the price for it, and on we moved. Nobody was hurt in our instance. It’s part of Formula One, if you do something wrong you get penalised.”

Steiner was speaking on Thursday in Shanghai. On Friday McLaren was fined for releasing Stoffel Vandoorne’s car from the pits with an unsecured wheel.

Following Haas’s pit stop errors in Australia, Steiner admitted he found it difficult to watch the team’s pit stops at the next race.

“You can imagine how everybody felt for the first pit stop we did in Bahrain I didn’t even want to watch it, but then I did.

“The guys did a good job recovering this quick. And pit stop number three was the eighth fastest of the race which was never our aim. Our aim was just to get the car out again solidly. I think our guys bounced back very strong, we did the right thing shuffling a few positions and giving them enough practice so they get the confidence back.”

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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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15 comments on “Steiner warns against knee-jerk reaction to pit lane safety fears”

  1. We need to have this, where the human being can make a mistake.

    Dear Guenther, I’d like mistakes to have consequences like losing a position or a race… not to see someone rolling in agony due to injuries.

    I agree knee jerk reactions are bad, but it is disingenuous of you to say that injuries are an expected consequence of sporting risk.

    A risk is what Vettel did running his tyres that long, with a potential consequence of losing first place.

    1. Yes, we had a loose wheel, who paid the consequences? The people who put it on. Nobody else.

      Also, a few years back a loose wheel hit a camera man. So stop this false equivocation.

      1. With Kimi the mechanic paid the consequences of a glitch on an electronic sensor. Did the sensor paid with a broken leg?

        Pitstops might add unpredictability, but if there is a place where F1 should aim for 100% safety, it is there. What if besides what happened, there was also another car coming into the pits and crashed into Kimi and injures even more people? Not worthy.

        It is very cool to say that they can change all 4 tyres under 2s, but it doesn’t really add anything. Bring the lollipop back, slower but has a conscious being releasing the cars. And still keep the unpredictability alive

        1. A week ago, I felt similarly about bringing back the lollipop man… Then, I watched Marc Priestley’s take on what happened and his thoughts…

  2. Ferrari incident was unfortunate but this kind of risk will always exist as long as mechanics are used. (I actually wonder if it’s mandatory or if teams could have robots performing the pit stop according to the rules).
    The other unsafe releases are handled on a proper way with driver stopping as soon as possible. And the teams are losing the most out of it since they need to retired, good incentive to fix the problem.

    1. To be honest I’d quite like to see what what a completely automated (non human) pit stop would look like. I think it would actually be pretty cool but it would just take a bit more unpredictability out of F1 which it already severely lacks (unless you’re a Honda fan)

  3. Totally agree with Guenther on this one. What happened at Ferrari was horrible, but it was an automotive accident, and these things do happen, no matter how much we regret. To change pit stops in reaction to this would be like banning bus stops because one child ran out and was killed on a normal road. Life inherently is risky, motorsport even more so. It’s regrettable, but we learn and move on.

  4. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    13th April 2018, 12:46

    Here come the human haloes:-)

  5. I’m not impressed with two-second pit stops, and the quicker they are, the more potential there is for mistakes and injuries. Fewer people over the wall would lead to less confusion and a wider margin for error.

  6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    13th April 2018, 13:00

    In a sport where they do close to 1,000 pitstops a season with multiple crew members carrying heavy equipment under extreme pressure and to have reduced the time by almost 100% over the past 5-10 years, to have an injury with a broken leg over many years isn’t that catastrophic.

    You can either view that as a huge success or as an area that requires huge improvement. There is an element of risk for everyone involved in F1 even the reporters.

    First the FIA should make sure that the members who perform the pit stops are adequately compensated for the risk and adequately insured (medical, disability and life insurance). They should be fully covered for any injury that happens during the race. It’s one thing to assume the risk and another to have to pay $100,000 out of your pocket for a team like Sauber or Marussia. I’ve always wondered if Maria De Villota who suffered a terrible injury during testing also had to bear a tremendous financial burden after he injury.

    Obviously preventative measures are fantastic so if they can prevent a crew member from standing in front of the tyre, they should probably look into that as well and maybe add small penalties ($500) if a pit stop is deemed less than safe even if nothing happens, just as a reminder that the team can improve.

    In my opinion, there is no need to overreact.

    1. Michael Brown (@)
      13th April 2018, 21:17

      Obviously preventative measures are fantastic so if they can prevent a crew member from standing in front of the tyre

      I think if something has to change, this is the most sensible

  7. I’m curious – do workplace safety regulations come into effect for such an incident? Either that of FIA’s country, or Italy (Ferrari), or Bahrain as the host country (unsure what sort of teeth that might have).

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      13th April 2018, 19:10

      Excellent point – we tend to think that F1 is governed by the FIA but the races must have to follow local laws and regulations and they could be quite different.

  8. Let’s just wait for a death before we make a change, that’s how F1 works. Charlie waited for Bianchi to be killed before he did something to fix a known problem (speeding under yellow). It seems inevitable.

    1. @francorchamps17, would you prefer the sport to rush into a panicked change when the systems which the teams have had in place have generally worked reasonably well until now?

      Demanding that “something must be done”, but without carefully considering what that “something” should be runs the risk of making ill considered changes that are ineffective, or even counterproductive, out of a sense to stop people demanding that something must immediately be done.

      We have seen a spate of rash statements being made, such as people demanding that a mechanic holding a “lollipop board” should be brought back, even though we have had very similar accidents occurring when that system was in place (see Yamamoto knocking over a mechanic during the 2010 Italian GP as one example) and there being no evidence that this would have prevented any of these incidents. People are rushing to suggest solutions without considering what the root cause of those incidents were and what could be done to address those issues, or whether their proposed solutions could bring unintended adverse side effects.

      A number of the mistakes which have been made have been for different reasons and need to be carefully analysed and weighed up to see if changes are needed and what could be done. Yes, the accident in Bahrain was rather unfortunate, and there may be some things that can be identified and addressed reasonably quickly – but the sport should not rush into making changes simply to satisfy those who demand instant changes and should instead undertake a detailed analysis to look for the root causes to come to a meaningful conclusion.

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