Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Monaco, 2021

Mercedes still unable to remove wheel from Bottas’ car

2021 Monaco Grand Prix

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The damaged wheel nut which forced Valtteri Bottas to retire from the Monaco Grand Prix is still stuck to his car, Mercedes has revealed.

Bottas retired in the pits when Mercedes were unable to remove the front-right wheel from his car when he came in for his pit stop on lap 29.

The team’s technical director James Allison said it won’t be possible to remove the nut, and the wheel with it, until the car returns to the team’s base.

“We didn’t get the wheel off,” Allison admitted. “It’s sat in our garage with the wheel stand on it.

“It’ll have to be ground off. Get a Dremel out and painfully slice through the remnants of the wheel nut. We’ll do this back at the factory.”

The driver said he was “hugely disappointed” to end his race in the pits having run second in the early stages, and urged the team to get to the bottom of its latest pit stop setback.

Bottas described his disbelief as he sat in the pits and realised his race was over.

“I was basically just like ‘yeah, it was a slow pit stop’. And then I was kind of calculating ‘okay, that’s probably Sainz getting past’, and then it was going to be Norris or whoever was behind.

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“Then when it came down to like 30 seconds or something, I couldn’t believe it. Obviously hugely disappointing and a situation that we need to make sure that never happens again – it’s a big mistake.”

Monaco GP review: “Actions speak louder than words”: Verstappen reminds Hamilton he has little to prove in title fight
“I think it’s bad luck from my side,” said Bottas. “It’s something that as a team is going to be a big priority going into the next race.”

Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff admitted he’d never previously seen anything like the wheel nut failure before. He explained their pit stop went awry when the mechanic’s wheel gun stripped the teeth from the nut.

“Valtteri said that he saw the aluminium bits flying off in front,” he explained.

“It’s been our weakness this year but we haven’t changed any of the wheel nut designs or the guns so we really need to get on top of what is causing that and come back stronger.”

The exact cause of the failure remains unclear, said Wolff. “We need to look into whether it is a design issue or whether we just had a catastrophic failure of a few systems.

“We just machined the whole nut off. Never seen anything like this. There was no part there any more and the tyre was still on the car.”

Wolff admitted it was “very, very frustrating” for Bottas, who has suffered misfortunes in the pits during previous races. “It seems like he’s cursed.”

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2021 Monaco Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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74 comments on “Mercedes still unable to remove wheel from Bottas’ car”

  1. A bizarre situation. They have to get the tyre off by the next race weekend at the very latest, LOL.

    1. @jerejj :o)
      That wheel nut has some serious issues! Maybe just change the car?

    2. Maybe they should fit a new tyre on it while keeping the rim on the car

      1. Would almost certainly be faster too!

      2. Or hit the wall like Leclerc did, problem solved.

        1. Ahah, that’s a good solution!

    3. @jerejj hahah couldn’t beat red bull’s sub-2 seconds pitstop so went for the longest, and yet another record broken by mercedes.

    4. HoosierDaddy
      24th May 2021, 13:31

      I agree. Race pit stops will be slow if they have to remove and install tires on that stuck wheel. Can’t wait to see what devices Mercedes invents to speed up the process. ;)

    5. :-) Let’s hope they can manage it.

  2. So Dremel to the rescue.

    1. Will we see a new sponsor on the car for the next race?

      1. Hahaha

      2. Indeed! It’s Locktite!

  3. What an awkward situation, while Ted stated in his notebook that Mclaren have a hammer for this situation, with which they hit the nut break it in two and are able to get the tire off and then hopefully put a new nut on if the threads aren’t stripped.

    1. No chance. It was cross threaded and because of that it worked its way tighter and tighter over the wheel hub with the rotation of the wheels for over 30 lap. It has become one piece with the hub and even if they got it off, the damage to the hub would be so substantial, the new wheels/nut would never ever go on.

      1. It wasn’t cross-threaded. The teeth on the nut that engage with the gun had been stripped off. There was nothing left for the gun to bite onto to turn the nut. Once that’s done, the nut has to be cut off. The threads on the wheel hub may very well be in perfect condition, but at this point that’s irrelevant.

  4. Russell sabotaged him.

    1. Used some loctite?

      1. We don’t know!

  5. I can’t replay but was wondering if the wheel gun was triggered before it engaged and simply ‘blended’ the wheel nut.

    1. @blik I just assumed the had a pressure switch to not fire too early until the gun is applied with a minimum force.

      1. Yes but ;-) How do the mechanics spin them up testing before the cars arrive then? We hear it all the time. Maybe a safety lock to prevent early activation wasn’t engaged / failed. “Toto………….you can use this one if you like”.

    2. @blik. I believe that was the case with Bottas’ previous wheel gun problem (Bahrain?)

      Strange to read they haven’t changed the design. If it happens once with this design, you can be sure it will happen again. Can’t believe they missed this. But then again, Ferrari’s lack of checking the left side for damage falls in the same category.

      At this level you can’t make mistakes like those or Murphy will find you…

    3. I can’t replay but was wondering if the wheel gun was triggered before it engaged and simply ‘blended’ the wheel nut.

      Seems that if this was the case we’d see this happen more often.

    4. Could be. There was a great slo-mo replay later in the race that showed a big cloud of swarf being sprayed everywhere as the wheel gun machined the nut into a perfect cylinder.

  6. As soon as the mechanics realised the tyre was not coming out why not re-fit the soft tyres and leave him out, he’d get a penalty but maybe he’d finish 9th or 10th

    1. @peartree I think not using two different types of tyre is outright disqualification so no point continuing. However if they were on the second stop of a 2 stop strategy having already used two types of tyres then I guess they could have theoretically done what you said and been classified with a time penalty applied.

      1. @chimaera2003 @red-andy I was under the impression the penalty was not exclusion

        1. @peartree No worries. However it needs to be such a strict penalty since this would be massively gamed otherwise. I bet a lot of teams would in certain circumstances take a time penalty for the privilege of only using a single tyre compound in a race.

    2. @peartree I think the penalty for not changing tyres during the race would be exclusion, so there wouldn’t have been any point. Ditto if they had changed three of the tyres and left the rogue one on.

    3. As soon as the mechanics realised the tyre was not coming out why not re-fit the soft tyres and leave him out, he’d get a penalty but maybe he’d finish 9th or 10th

      No he would be disqualified

    4. @peartree because in reality the tyres would wear out and he’d be plum last?

      1. @optmimaximal Not at Monaco.

    5. That’s not quite right, the sporting regulations state that in a dry weather race that is run to full length, ‘each driver must use at least two different specifications’ and that ‘failure to comply with this requirement will result in the disqualification’.

    6. someone or something
      24th May 2021, 11:30

      Nope, that’s a failure to comply with the technical regulations and an automatic disqualification.
      Leaving aside the fact that his tyres were done and would’ve probably failed soon.

  7. Watching him pitting in the race yesterday. I know something was wrong when the front tire never got off. So sad he was running at second and score big points. But it is what it is. Good luck on next race. :)

  8. I am surprised that Toto hasn’t talked about how this will need a new suspension or a new car and due to the budget cap, some other development will have to be forgone.

    1. Or how the regulations set Mercedes on the back foot when it comes to wheel nuts… especially since they are the underdog anyway

  9. Besides that, send out a car with a wheel nut with some kind of damage? What if the wheel came flying out, in a street circuit no less.

    1. Indeed. That would be completely irresponsible to do @afonic.

    2. @afonic One could argue Mercedes already did that, a mechanic cross threaded that wheel, that wheel is not going anywhere but you are right, merc by sending Bottas would knowingly send an unsafe car out.

  10. I hope they will get it off till the Baku race.

  11. What if they have reached the budgetcap?
    Does Bottas need to drive with that red tire for rest of season?

    1. Not unless they fit the rest of the set too @trib4udi, that would be another penalty/exclusion ground!

  12. The only time I can recall something similar happening is Damon Hill during the 1994 Japanese Gp where they were unable to remove I think it was the left rear tyre during his last stop.

    Back then they were able to run a mixed set of tyres/compounds so they were able to just send him out having only changed 3.

    1. Were they wet tires? I remember there was lots of rain, and the race was run in two parts.

      1. Oh, yes, japanese gp 1994 was great, I remember watching it full in recent times and was giving an approximate look and the first laps they were lapping in around 2 min at suzuka! Torrential rain I think, schumacher was ahead on the first stint and deserved to win I believe, he was faster, had accumulated 7 seconds, then the race was interrupted, in the 2nd stint hill managed to get ahead and conserve some gap because schumacher was on an additional pit stop strategy, schumacher was recovering more than a second per lap towards the end but ran into trouble with lapping cars, and summing the gaps of the 2 races he ended up being a couple of seconds behind overall I think, didn’t remember about the pit stop trouble.

  13. Reminds me of when I decided to change a 25 year old faucet without calling a plumber to save money. Ended up having to drill through the locking nut in several places and then hammer it off. I see everyone has these challenges.

    1. @dmw
      Dave,
      Had the same problem. Ended up protecting the sink top. Took sawsall and cut the faucet and handles off from the top.

  14. I could imagine firing the gun before it was properly engaged on the nut would fry the thread. Human error? Hasn’t Bottas had issues on the right front in the pits before?

  15. Suddenly a 3, 4 or 5 second pitstop delay getting the wheels off doesn’t seem so bad, we’re closing in on a day for this one.

    1. someone or something
      24th May 2021, 13:37

      I hope they’ll tell us when they finally get that wheel off. Pit stop statistics are important!

      1. Next article, mercedes breaks the record for the longest pit stop, 2 days, 3 hours!

  16. I would sum up Mercedes weekend as the wheels are coming off even when they aren’t.

  17. Mercedes screwed Bottas hard. Nothing new.

    1. are you suggesting they did it on purpose?

      1. Certainly more points for Hamilton in P7 than in P8 . But that was too far fetched even for Mercedes, so that conspiracy needs to be laid to rest. But sincerely, there should be more traditional tools knowledge in the paddock for such technical exigencies , like somebody said above that Mclaren uses a hammer to break the nut., maybe Mercedes should hire an Indian mechanic who can do some “Jugaad” with a pair of pliers etc. and make a quick fix. Such a failure was disappointing to watch as an F1 fan and promotor who makes other watch the sport with him detailing how this is the pinnacle of engineering and technology.

        1. Absolutely as a big mercedes critic, no conspiracy here, they lost more in the constructor’ than they gained in the drivers’, since hamilton was so far back, the 1 place points gain was marginal.

        2. I don’t believe in that. Mercedes in the end really don’t care about Hamilton. They just want to win the WCC and if Lewis or whomever also happens to win the WDC thats a nice side effect. Sure Lewis holds a special place in their hearts given their history and they would prefer to win with him, but in the end 2 cars in the points is the goal. And if today its not driver x, they will go for y

    2. I mean, it was certainly screwed on hard.

  18. “It seems like he’s cursed.”

    It really does. Maybe he should ‘demand answers’ why this is only happening to him.

    1. I have the answer, and it’s pretty simple: pit crew is different between the 2 drivers of the same team, isn’t it? At least it was like it in 2016, not sure if still true with the budget cap, hamilton’s pit crew is much more competent, they more rarely make these mistakes.

  19. Ben (@sunnchilde)
    24th May 2021, 18:51

    If that stop had happened to Lewis, he’d be setting things on fire.

    1. Can’t, hamilton has a better pit crew!

    2. And rightly so. He has saved Mercedes many blushes too many times to accept such incompetence from them without making a stink over it.

      They managed to lose him 3 places through bad strategy – something he would have covered up again with his driving skills if it was at a different track.

  20. Fly me out to Monaco and I’ll fix the hub in 20 minutes…….never seen an F1 Mercedes before but how difficult can it be to ‘careful’ split a stripped alloy nut on a wheel…….Mercedes need to look closely at their multi million dollar budgets and get real…..

    1. But flying you to Monaco would surely be the more expensive option :)

  21. SanFran (@andrewfrancis80)
    24th May 2021, 21:00

    Does this mean that technically the clock is still running on Bottas’ pit stop?? Over 24 hours now for a tyre change!!

    1. I don’t see why they’d need to fit a new wheel before FP1 in Baku, though, so we’re looking at a two-week pit stop here….

  22. Mercedes has stayed behind in Monaco and the pitstop timer is still running, still trying to remove the wheel.

  23. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    24th May 2021, 21:33

    I feel quite bad for Bottas, he seems to get the lion’s share of misfortune not just at Mercedes but across the whole grid. Whenever something bad happens it always seems to hit him hardest and while others benefit from good fortune he seems mired in misfortune. Especially hard this weekend knowing he could take a significant chunk out of Hamilton’s championship lead and all the way throughout the weekend looked pretty much better than him – and still managed to lose out.

    “It seems like he’s cursed” – to be honest a fair assessment of the guy.

  24. They should have special “race only” nuts made out of a material softer than the axle but harder than the gun.

  25. Pfft. Just use some WD-40.

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