George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Russell’s race-losing tyre mix-up was not due to “human error” – Wolff

2020 F1 season

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The pit stop error which cost George Russell the lead of the Sakhir Grand Prix was caused by a problem with Mercedes’ radios, team principal Toto Wolff has revealed.

Russell was called into the pits during a Safety Car period but fitted with a set of his team mate’s tyres by mistake. Mercedes called him back in to replace his tyres, but the extra pit stop dropped him to fifth place.

The stewards are investigating the error. Russell went on to finish ninth after a puncture forced him to make another pit stop.

Wolff confirmed Russell did not need to make the pit stop which went wrong, calling it a “safety stop”, but defended the decision to use the Safety Car period to put Russell on a fresh set of tyres.

“We were fine on the hard,” he told Sky. “We could have stayed out but we had the gap and then you do things. You can question that but I think it’s absolutely the right call and wrong tyres.”

He explained how the team came to fit the wrong tyres to Russell’s car. “One of the tyre crews didn’t hear the call, we had a radio failure in the garage and when the car came in they didn’t know that we had changed the tyres. So they had the wrong tyres and this is why we exited with the wrong tyres.”

“We, overall, did a good job,” Wolff added. “Technical failures happen, that wasn’t any human error. We’ve checked it now and we can see it’s not functioning but we don’t know why. So these things happen and we need to learn from it”

Russell was controlling the race before the problem during his pit stop. Wolff was full of praise for how the team’s junior driver handled his promotion.

“Of course he was very emotional because if you’re in your first race in a Mercedes and he should have won it, actually, for driving a monumental race then there is not a lot you can say. And this is where we are but it’s not gonna be his last attempt to win a race, it’s just the beginning of a fairytale that didn’t work out today and I would say that a new star is born.

“I think Lewis is the absolute benchmark, that is what his record says and nobody is anywhere near him. But today we’ve seen that there is a new generation coming up, that can be really strong, they’re very young, they’re in their early 20s and the sky is the limit.”

He confirmed Russell will remain in the car at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix if Lewis Hamilton is unable to return.

“I think we need to see how well Lewis recovers, that’s the most important, that he’s well. He said it’s been better today and that he’s made a big step.

“If the test is negative then it’s his car and he will for sure drive a brilliant race and if the test in Abu Dhabi isn’t negative then George is in the car.”

Wolff, who rarely speaks on Mercedes team radio, spoke to Russell on his slowing-down lap to apologise for the pit stop error. “George, I’m sorry for that,” he said. “That was a brilliant, brilliant drive.”

Mercedes’ chief strategist James Vowles also spoke to him. “Notwithstanding the events of today, well done,” he said. “You drove a solid race. Every time you were set back you fought through. Well done.”

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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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  • 56 comments on “Russell’s race-losing tyre mix-up was not due to “human error” – Wolff”

    1. Russell might even face a DSQ because of using a set allocated to his teammate.

      1. It seems inevitable

      2. I’m not sure if there is any leeway available to the stewards in this. If there is, I really hope they show some leniency. They’ve already been dropped from 1-2 to 8-9 by this mistake, it would seem very harsh to DSQ for this of there is any other option.

        That said, is it a breach of the technical regulations? If so, I don’t think there is much wiggle room and it is probably correct for him to be disqualified. Gutting, but correct.

      3. Brundle said during the race that once it’s resolved within 2 or 3 laps you should be OK, but I think at the time he was talking about having a mixed compound rather than wearing your team mate’s tyres. Hopefully they’re a similar breach and leniency can be shown. Especially given it was a technical failure rather than a human one, so not even a ‘team’ error in that sense. Even if McLaren could really do with the extra WCC point for Norris. Maybe they can penalise Mercedes and not penalise George.

    2. Radios vs. Humans…

      Mistakes do happen. Sad for Russell this time. He drove well to win.

    3. At least this race proved the old nugget: “Anyone can win in a Merc.”

      Especially if it’s a 2019 Merc. ;-)

      1. savage….but well played

    4. It was a human error: pit stacking is not new and someone would have to be responsible to check if the pti crews got the right tyres.
      I would appreciate if Toto just admitted they did that to protect Bottas and Hamilton.

      1. Found the flat earther

        1. The safety car was caused by Russell’s replacement at Williams, Jack Aitken. There must be something in that…

      2. Fascinating. Did they also screw up Bottas’ pitstop and put him back in P5 on his old hard tyres to protect him?

        1. Obviously they did that just to make their sabotage looks less suspicious!

          1. @gusty “Interesting tactics.”

            1. @keithedin I laughed. I’m not sure I’m onboard with the tinfoil club on this, but fantastic call back.

      3. It’s just the car? Didn’t see a Merc win yesterday! It has won in 13 races this year but didn’t yesterday… what was so different about Merc yesterday? I cant think.

        1. It was a 2019 merc that won.. missed that one too?

      4. I agree. There is no way that this was a mistake. It was planned to protect Hamilton from backlash concerning the ‘anyone can win in a Mercedes!’ narrative. I just don’t understand why they pulled Bottas into it. That part makes no sense!

    5. Bottas suffered from the pit stop mistake more than Russell did. Russell pitted twice, but Bottas’ pit stop was 30 seconds long AND they gave him the same tyres he had before pitting.

      It was the puncture that destroyed Russell’s race for good.

      1. Weird comment, @hotbottoms.
        Russell was well ahead and came out behind Bottas after his double stop.

        1. Russell was behind Bottas but with fresh mediums where as Bottas had hards with which he had already drove 20 laps or so. Bottas had a 30 second pit stop but they didn’t even change his tyres after all.

          I’m not saying Russell had less bad luck in the race than Bottas did, but the thing that truly destroyed Russell’s was the puncture, not the pit stop mistake.

        2. Hes correct though…and I say that as big fan of George!

      2. Exact @hotbottoms. Just watched all the onboard and Bottas was definitely screwed he waited for around 30 seconds in the pits for nothing with the same tyres he entered the box. Almost never seen that before. With all this time lost, they could afford to lose a few more seconds and shoe him proper new boots.

    6. “We, overall, did a good job,” Wolff added.

      Ehh… no. No you didn’t.

      I understand where he’s going here, but there’s really no way to sugar-coat that catastrophe; it was just a mess from start to finish. The race was in the bag, and taking the stop under the safety car implied a risk, much more so because of the double stack. There should be much to learn from this, and most of it on the pit wall.

      1. @dkor From start to finish? I though it only went wrong on lap 63?

    7. I’m still a bit confused as to what happened and how. Did someone grab a Bottas tyre by mistake? I would have thought that would be hard to do given that they are probably on different sides of the garage and they have their own crews, but maybe not?

      1. The confusion seems to have occurred because they were double-stacking, and the pit crew didn’t seem to know who was coming in first.

        They meant to send both cars out on new sets of mediums, but put Valtteri’s set on Russell’s car. You could see the front-left airgun operator realize what was wrong when they had a Russell wheel on Valtteri’s car, and had to start unwinding everything.

      2. @f-duct here is what happened. The pit crew were under the impression Bottas was coming in, so they had Bottas’ tires lined up. You can actually see the left rear tire changer run out after George had already come to a stop – and he was bringing George’s tire! Go back and watch, he’ll run around the back, swap the rear tire while another tire bounces away (a penalty in Indycar & NASCAR, by the way) and good job done for the rear tires. It wasn’t until Bottas actually was in the pits that the front left tire changer, after he’d actually changed the tire, wave frantically and probably yell over the radio he had the wrong tire.

        So if you watch again, just keep in mind that the set originally in place was Bottas’ set. Watch the tires that made it onto George’s vehicle.

    8. Mercedes should be much more apologetic than Wolff is showing. Russell performed brilliantly for them and was complete incompetence all round that turned his (and Bottas’s) race upside-down.

      This is why there’s a good case for arguing that the real professional in the team is Lewis. He sets the standard, not Mercedes management. Without him leading the team, demanding the very highest levels, would they really be where they are today?

      1. @david-br Oh dear. One would think it was an ironic or comedy comment, but you’re actually serious. Desperate times for the Hamilton fanatics.

        1. @balue Your comment, as ever, doesn’t really deserve a serious reply, abusive as ever with your remarks about ‘Hamilton fanatics.’ The fact is that Hamilton rejected a needless pit stop a few races back, calculating that the risks of something going wrong outweighed the advantage of fresh tyres. Additionally, Wolff’s comments set the blame on radio communications when it remains unclear why the team didn’t notice they had the wrong tyres as Russell was approaching in the pit lane.

          1. @david-br You call one of the best teams in history unprofessional and unable to set a standard, and then it’s others being abusive and not deserving a serious reply?

            You would think crazy has to level off at some point, but this takes it to another plane altogether.

            1. @balue Go abuse someone else. Unlike other trolls here, you masquerade as civil while sneaking in insults all the time. I don’t know what’s worse.

            2. @david-br The only one masquerading here is you, pretending to have sensible arguments when it’s all just a ruse to hail your deity in every single way on every single topic using shameless lies and fakery, just like here. And as a Hamilton fan that inevitably means putting down others as much as you can, just like now.

              This topic is about Russell’s pit stop, which you of course want to make about Hamilton in order to praise him, and you do it by insulting the Mercedes team in the worst way you can think of.

              Talk about trolls is beyond ironic at this point.

    9. It was due to the Imola Curse.

    10. What can I say about Russell. He has the speed of Hamilton but the luck of Bottas.
      Two of Bottas’ black cats in the Mercedes garage apparently.

      1. The speed of Hamilton? Speed means nothing if you cant control your tyre usage. Russell was a bit naive yesterday. He went like the clappers after that second stop and made no allowance for the terrible pirrelis! George is partly to blame for yesterday’s result.

        1. Nothing wrong with his tires until he entered ( and left) the pits.

          George is partly to blame

          yes, he forget to instruct the team to put the right person and tire on the tight place as Hamilton always does…
          dream on…

    11. We were fine on the hard,

      As shown by Bottas who stayed on those hards.

    12. A poor worksman blames his tools!
      Its valiant that he is deflecting any suggestions of blame from team individuals, but I guess systems should have backups and failsafe, otherwise its a human error in the original design

    13. Mark in Florida
      6th December 2020, 21:48

      Maybe Russel has inherited the curse of the Hulk! George did everything today that could be asked of him. What more could be have done to win? Mercedes got caught being arrogant today. They were in control of the race and then decided to pit as insurance? In some circumstances that may be the correct call but not when you haven’t even set the tires out and no one confirmed the call by radio. Mercs management was asleep at the wheel today. If this had been Hamilton fans would be calling for heads to roll but Merc will probably pack Russel off to Williams and hope people will forget. Cynical I know but Mercs trying to pass this off as the radios fault. Where were the humans at in this comedy of errors?

      1. not even the first time this year pit lane errors have happened, and it has happened multiple times each season.

        1. Mark in Florida
          7th December 2020, 1:45

          @f1fan-2000 Yes they have committed other errors before, just not something so egregious as they did today. They pitted them when they didn’t have to and did a double stack which only complicated matters further. Your only asking for problems when doing this this from the lead in my opinion. Taking unnecessary risk is still taking risk. Maybe GR will get another shot at it.

    14. Mercedes has one of the worst pit crews on the grid. Week after week their pit times are the slowest. Is there a statistic that shows the pit times for all teams foa normal 4 tyre change? Red Bull are consistently around 2 whilst Mercedes are routinely around 3. Some of the back grid teams are in the low to mid 2 range. This is why HAM tells the team no when they ask him to box for these safety stops.

      1. Obviously you’ve not been watching Vettel’s pit stops all these while. He had 3 pit stops yesterday and Ferrari managed to botched all of them.

        1. @blutto no, I think you need to consider how botched Vettel’s stops were compared to the mistakes Merc makes. If any other car was anywhere near the Merc, they’d lose far more often because of their mistakes.

          1. If any other car was anywhere near the Merc, they’d improve their pitstops. Ifs and buts…

      2. I believe their relatively slow stops, If you can call 2.5 – 3 seconds SLOW, are purposeful. They usually have time in hand so want to ensure no errors are made. Better to lose half a second than fail to tighten the wheels etc. That said… the Merc pit crew and pit wall make quite alot of errors when you compare to RB. Maybe its just more noticable with Merc as we have come to expect perfection?

    15. Humans make the call to box and human’s put the tyres on, Toto. Unless the mechanics didn’t realise that George was in the lead…

      George was superb. Took the race by both hands and was well on his way to a deserved victory. The pass around the outside of Bottas was magnificent and was probably more impressive that his assured drive in the lead. It shows that George has got that racer’s mentality that Bottas lacks. Yes, Bottas was on old tyres but he didn’t even take a look at Stroll when he had DRS.

      Mercedes threw it all away with an extremely late call for a double-stack stop which caught the pit crew out. They weren’t ready, and Bottas would have lost a lot of time even if they had got the tyres on in the right order.

      It was also refreshing to not have to listen to endless complaints about how the tyres are in bad condition (while setting fastest laps) and self-aggrandising comments about difficult races spent in the lead.

      I hope George gets the chance to race the Mercedes again in Abu Dhabi.

    16. Merc did everything not to give Russel a win. They just didn’t try to manage a pit stop and all errors come up, nobody to blame – good story from Toto. True that they tried to save Bottas’s and Lewis faces in that way, they expect Russel comfortably took second place after Bottas but everything come up not as expected.

      It’s clear – every driver could take WDC in Merc car and Lewis’s 7 WDC will be understated.
      The thing is what’s with Bottas car? Not the same revision as Lewis’s ? He can’t be so slower vs Russel. It’s all the same in top team as with Lecler and Vettel, Alonso and Massa, Coulthard and Webber, etc… when team prefers one car vs another.

      1. So, pray tell, where will the asterisks appear against Lewis’ WDCs, Wins, Poles etc? I dont believe the carve them into the WDC trophy and ivemever seen any in the sporting history books. But you go ahead and jot some down in your notebook! Hehehe 👏🇬🇧

    17. It’s not a human error, it’s Mercedes sabotage.

      1. Hehehehe cheer up old boy! 🇬🇧🇬🇧

      2. Nope, Deanr is convinced it was caused by George himself..

    18. If it is not due to Human Error, was it then on purpose?
      Mistakes can be made, but that is a huge one.
      Don’t believe the Radio issue could have caused them to fit him with tires not belonging to him. He was in the lead so there was no reason to expect Bottas in first, unless someone on the “RADIO” said that only Bottas was to come in, which makes the radio argument less believable.
      Instead of admitting to it, something else was blamed. This guy can’t speak the truth even if his life depended on it.

    19. K but the call was never to put Bottas’ tires on Russell’s car. They got the right compound on, they just put it on the wrong car. So I don’t really see how this can be blamed on the radio.

    20. It was due to “inhuman” error???

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