Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Red Bull Ring, 2020

Alfa Romeo fined after Raikkonen loses wheel during race

2020 F1 season

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Alfa Romeo have been fined €5,000 after Kimi Raikkonen’s car shed its front-right wheel during the Austrian Grand Prix.

The wheel came off Raikkonen’s car as the race was restarting following a Safety Car period, during which he had made a pit stop.

The stewards discovered the nut holding the wheel in place was cross-threaded when the team attached it during a pit stop. However they acknowledged the team had no way of knowing the wheel was loose once the car returned to the track.

“Having examined photos of the damaged wheel and the axle shaft it is evident that the wheel nut of the RHS front wheel got cross threaded during the wheel change which was not identified by the wheel gun operator,” the stewards noted. “As a consequence the right back wheel went off when the car was back in the race.

“The stewards accept, however, that neither the team nor the driver had the opportunity to realise that the car was in unsafe condition and therefore did not stop the car.”

Raikkonen said it was “a shame to end the race like this when things were looking good.”

“The problem came as a surprise,” he added. “I had no warning it would happen. We will need to investigate what happened. For now, we can take some positives from our pace in race conditions and keep improving the car.”

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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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20 comments on “Alfa Romeo fined after Raikkonen loses wheel during race”

  1. Martin Elliott
    5th July 2020, 18:34

    How many times have we been told the issue of wheel replacement during pitstops coming off has been fixed between the FIA and this of that team. How many TR engineering changes have been imposed. How many operational/systems analysis have there been.
    Add also the issue of unsafe release also causing personnel/media injuries or collisions.

    And its still happening at around single numbers per season.

    FIA Safety Management at its best.

    1. If you are expected to do the stop in 2 seconds or less, and if a human has to put the wheel on, then they will still come off. Even if you had like a sensor on the nut that kept the gearbox in neutral if it wasn’t on right there would be some failure of the human link in the process or the design or implementation.

      1. Let’s mandate minimum pit stop times then. All the equipment is being unified anyway.

    2. There’s no perfect system. Unless you want the FIA to reimplement the no wheel change rule like they did back in 2005.

    3. Tyler Smith
      6th July 2020, 13:37

      You’ve obviously never cross-threaded a fastener before. It happens fast, and if you don’t stop your hand/tool *instantly* then you won’t even feel it happening until it’s too late.

      No imagine being asked to do it in under two seconds with the most powerful impact gun you’ll ever hold.

      Give them a break. They’re human, and it will never be perfect.

  2. Francorchamps (@francorchamps17)
    5th July 2020, 18:43

    Seems like a very low amount for something so dangerous.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      5th July 2020, 18:52

      Agreed! Vettel is so lucky that thing didn’t hit his car. The way it came across the track again was scary.

  3. Good decision. Haas dangerous brakes should get fined too.

    1. @ruliemaulana Indeed. I agree.

  4. For those who have been to the race track, correct me if I am wrong on this one because I am not 100% sure on this.

    That section of the track where the incident occurred, has normally been close to the grandstands and a viewing area for the fans. If I remembered correctly, you can get close to trackside if you go to the final corners. Therefore, if this was on normal attendance, this incident would have put all those watching at that section at risk. I remember walking througn that section in 2017, but I am not entirely sure about that.

    1. Based simply on the footage from today’s race, there’s just an access road and some forest next to where the tyre ended up. The grandstand is located on the outside of the small straight between the last two turns, and the main grandstand on the start-finish straight begins much later after the exit of the corner.

      1. You can actually stand right behind that barrier @kaiie @krichelle. There is no room for dozens of people, but when we visited last time a few years back there was something like a trail right behind the barriers and some people were sitting on both the inside and the outside (not many people around, interesting shot from cars coming down and then onto the straight and trees providing shade).

  5. Didn’t they invest quite a lot of money and research to redevelop wheel nuts to make sure they cannot completely drop out if not tightly fixed, so that wheels would stay on hubs??

  6. Jockey Ewing
    5th July 2020, 21:44

    It’s quite sad, because looking at laptimes Kimi had better ones than many of the midfield (he was beating them with something like 0.2s+/lap), only the McLarens and Ferraris were faster than him. He was quite unlucky to pit a few laps before the first safety car and then everyone else earned his free pitstop and he lost his tyre advantage. Imo with some luck he might had beaten many many guys behind the McLarens, like Ocon or the Alpha Tauri drivers.

  7. Good to know the FIA gets confused between the front and rear wheels…

  8. The stewards discovered the nut holding the wheel in place was cross-threaded when the team attached it during a pit stop.

    The failure of this wheel to remain on the car highlights a failure not just of the wheel nut to keep the wheel on the car, but also a failure of the back up systems that are supposed to stop a car in this condition from being released, and also of the systems that are supposed to prevent the wheel nut from falling off the car.
    For example one way of checking if a wheel nut is done up correctly is the torque applied to the wheel nut, so was the wheel nut “torqued up” to the correct value?
    Interestingly, I came across a website called Formula One Dictionary, with a section on wheel nuts. One interesting and relevant comment was:

    [The] Gun is also fitted with a torque sensor. This sensor will record what the tightening torque was. This information can be reviewed later if needed. As the rules currently stand, this sensor cannot be used in real time to confirm to the pit crew that the correct torque was achieved.

    I don’t know if that comment about the relevant rules still applies, but if the rules prevent a team from linking the torque value measured by a gun to the green “go” light via a computer to check the correct tightness has been achieved then one has to ask why isn’t this done? Did the wheel gun record a value, and if so what was it and what should it have been?
    As I think about this wheel coming off, other back up systems like a wheel nut locking system failed, and the potential for the wheel gun operator to have signalled the wheel was done up correctly before they should have. Another possible reason for this failure is maybe Haas were only using 3 threads on their axle, and that if they’d used more threads on the axle stub this failure might have been averted.
    One shouldn’t have to make rules about these sorts of things, but this incident could so very easily ended in tragedy, so really the options are the teams sit down and sort out minimum safe standards that will apply to all cars at all races or the FIA can mandate minimum standards, e.g. require a minimum of say 7 threads on the axle.
    Maybe F1 even needs to have a minimum stationary tyre change time, e.g. 5 seconds.

    1. Jockey Ewing
      5th July 2020, 23:43

      Interesting post, thank you, especially the wheel guns torque sensor, and it’s recording capability.
      As I remember, or as I feel in the recent years there had been less problems with wheels fell off or badly fitted at pit stops than previously. As I remember there had been many cases where the driver had to return to the pits to fix it in the next very few laps, or he even lost the wheel. So likely some improvement happened in this area.
      Then probably it was technology and rules evolution that made these indicents more rare, the equipment became more reliable?
      And maybe the reason why the correct torque reading is not linked to the green light is to punish failed pit stops with a repeated one? Or just they find the equipment sufficiently reliable now. But if it seems reliable, and considered reliable, it hides or delays error like this, and the wheel may falls off even more unexpectedly, that’s not a good thing. Imo it fell off at somewhere around the penultimate turn, and that is very fast and challenging at race pace, so it’s good it happened at the end of the SC period.
      It looks like because of the virus teams having less resources and workforce to have quality control at their usual level, so we may see more problems around reliability and safety. I dont’t mind it around reliability, at least it resembles the older days a bit more, and adds a bit more excitement occasionally, but around safety it’s not the case. Imo the easiest way to reduce costs and have more exciting races is to let the reliability rules go, an engine and gearbox that not lasts 6 races but only 1 or 2 is much easier and cheaper to build. This season might show that with less reliability it might be more exciting, and anyway luck will be present even with more reliable parts than today, but winning or loosing streaks are likely enlengthened by more reliable cars and the formula that can’t be changed because it’s too pricy to change. Imo it’s a bit ridiculous to have almost the same formula for far more than 10 years today, especially considering the costs and the aero sensitivity of the cars.

      1. Imo it fell off at somewhere around the penultimate turn, and that is very fast and challenging at race pace, so it’s good it happened at the end of the SC period.

        That’s an interesting thought, that the wheel came off when it was subjected to the higher loads. Looking at a video of the incident shows the wheel came loose just after Kimi hit the inside kerb while going around a corner, so it failed exactly as you suggested, under a heavy load. Haas said the wheel nut was cross threaded, but I’m wondering if the gun operator removed the gun too soon and that the wheel nut wasn’t done up to the correct torque, e.g. that the nut was done up one turn instead of 3 (or however many turns it takes to do the nut up). If the axle has just three threads or such like, and the wheel nut wasn’t done up, then it is hardly surprising the nut failed. I thought the wheel was supposed to have remained on the car even if the wheel nut came loose and fell off, held on by some sort of latching system, but either the latches weren’t there or they failed. If there is supposed to be a latching system and it wasn’t there, then why didn’t the Stewards note this during the vetting of the car? If the latches failed why hasn’t the FIA asked for a report on this?
        One day a wheel will come off and someone will be seriously injured or killed, then where will the FIA be? It is extraordinary that at a time when fractions of a second are everything, that common sense doesn’t apply. Can a wheel gun operator press the “job done” button before the wheel nut is torqued up to the correct value? There needs to be automatic systems in place that instantly sounds the alarm if anything is amiss. If the wheel gun torque can be measured then why do the rules stop this being linked to a safety system? If the wheel is supposed to stay on the car if the wheel nut falls off then why did the wheel come off? There needs to be more thread on the axle stub. The gun torque needs to be linked to the “go” light.
        There are just so many red flags that should be being waved right now about this entire incident and it’s as though Kimi had gotten a puncture. The FIA needs to investigate this and come up with a better plan than just blaming a gun operator. It wasn’t the gun operator, they should have been backed up by several layers of redundancy. That is where the problem is, there wasn’t any redundancy.
        I think as a temporary measure a pit stop needs to have a minimum stationary time, e.g. 5 seconds.

        1. Jockey Ewing
          6th July 2020, 22:02

          Yes, as a safety measure, I’m sure the “go” light linked to properly fitted wheels would be better, and I would like to see improving safety. Actually this incident surprised me very much, as I have not seen a wheel falling off for a long while. If torque reading is available then there is no reason not to link it to a safety system.

          1. Supposedly the rules prohibit linking the torque setting on the gun to the green “go” light. See the link in my first comment.

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