Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2021

Bottas given three-place grid penalty for “potentially dangerous” pit lane spin

2021 Styrian Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas has been given a three-place grid penalty for spinning in the pit lane during today’s second practice session at the Red Bull Ring.

The stewards deemed the incident was “potentially dangerous”. Bottas lost control of his car as he pulled away from his pit box, and came to a stop near a group of McLaren mechanics.

Following the session Bottas said the team had been trying something different when he left the pit box. The stewards noted Mercedes had been trying to improve the speed of their departure from the pits by using second gear instead of first.

“When [Bottas] pulled away from his designated pit stop position, he lost control of the car when he turned into the fast lane. He oversteered, spun and came to a stop across the fast lane near the McLaren pits.

“During the hearing [Bottas] stated that in the past they have been losing time in the pit departure. So they tried something new, which was to leave in second gear. As a result, the wheel spin was much higher and the result unexpected. Therefore he didn’t manage to control the car properly into the fast lane. This has to be considered as potentially dangerous driving, especially as personnel were around in the pit lane.”

Bottas was also given two penalty points on his superlicence, which are his first of the current 12-month period.

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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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96 comments on “Bottas given three-place grid penalty for “potentially dangerous” pit lane spin”

  1. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    25th June 2021, 17:16

    Initially I thought this was a harsh penalty for a silly error but finding out they were ‘trying something new’ in trying to make their pitstops shorter and quicker, while simultaneously knowing that Mercedes have a hand in the whole artificially slowing down pitstops thing… yeah. The penalty is deserved. They’re being shady.

    1. @rocketpanda Same sentiment. I was also initially surprised by the grid penalty as I expected a financial one for the team at maximum, but yes, circumstances considered a justified sanction.

    2. @rocketpanda

      Yeah I hate to see him get a penalty too. I mean we know he just made a mistake. Plus without a second Mercedes to check verstappen’s pit stops It probably will be a boring race.

      But I think we have to expect an F1 driver will never spin in the pits. It’s just so dangerous. It stinks the team did something that made it more difficult for him, but he’s the driver and has to be accountable.

      1. @rocketpanda, @slotopen, reported yr comments by mistake, apologize. My bad digit on smart phones. VB plain rookies mistake! Did he try something different? What? Since when start on dry track on 2nd gear you accelerate faster than 1st gear? Even a driving student knows it’s not possible.. nice try, but embarrassing..

        1. The higher the gear the faster the wheels will turn. On a normal car starting in 2nd will be a slower and less likely to spin the wheels because you need more torque to turn the higher gear. Thats why its good to start in 2nd or 3rd even in snow/ice.

          Because these cars have so much torque he still had massive wheel spin but the wheels were turning even faster because of the higher gear. These cars could probably light up the rears in 4th gear from a standstill.

          Maybe they should try 5th gear ;)

      2. “The team did something”… last time I checked, the driver was in control of the gear shift paddles. Of course Bottas would have agreed with his team to try this, but yes ultimately he is responsible for judging if he’s safe before he puts his right foot down.

    3. I think that it was nowhere near harsh enough. It was deliberate careless act. If another car came along at the wrong moment could have taken out half a dozen people. More evidence of weak governance and Mercedes’ undue influence with the FIA. Bottas has lost the plot.

      1. Not sure what other penalties there are for something like this, think I’ve seen 5 place grid drops before, or starting from the back.

  2. Glad there was a penalty for this.

    1. Now all we need is a pointless rule change in the name of safety to ensure that drivers think about accelerating for an additional 0.2s before actually doing so.

      1. @eurobrun Lol please no. Although, I suppose they could tie this in with ‘unsafe release.’

      2. Or psychological testing of suspicious activity.

      3. Report all planned gear shifts to the stewards, and obtain written approval before executing them.

  3. David Donaldson
    25th June 2021, 17:31

    Dint comment often on race fans, but as expected anti Mercedes comments emerge. I agree it should be penalised but the tenet of these comments were more about Mercedes than Bottas and conspiratorial. Surprised the usual suspects didn’t blame Hamilton.

    1. as expected anti Mercedes comments emerge

      That is requested by Toto, he likes the underdog position.
      And likes being an ar#€&

    2. At least you prove there are always those who want to make anything about Hamilton while having a go at other commenters. That is a constant..

      1. So true. On the topic at hand, with the current pu maps I’m surprised teams haven’t already erradicated wheelspin.

  4. Funny they botched the pit right after making pit stops slower for every team

    1. Yeah.. for SAFETY reasons.. so we have Bottas 🤣👁 prove it.

  5. A penalty of some kind seemed appropriate, but I think a three grid penalty is harsh. The comments above have seemed anti-Mercedes.

    1. Adam (@rocketpanda)
      25th June 2021, 17:44

      I dunno dude if you as a team can’t do a pitstop as fast as another and then complain to get them artificially slowed down in the name of ‘safety’, then order your driver to try and pull away in 2nd gear which clearly is unsafe and then nearly spin into a bunch of mechanics then this is more about Mercedes than Bottas and they deserve any criticism they get for it.

      1. You need to separate one incident from the other and be objective about it. I am NO fan at all of slowing pitstops down and think it’s ridiculous, but this penalty is also too harsh and probably the result of McLaren having a word with schoolteacher Masi. A clear case of don’t do this again and perhaps some penalty points would have been appropriate.

        1. They could’ve killed several people, if anything it’s too lenient.

        2. @john-h
          I’m on the fence about it. When I first saw the incident I thought it was a silly mistake, nothing more and didn’t warrant a penalty.
          But then it came out that it was because of pulling away in 2nd and I think that McLaren do have a point. Bottas wasn’t in control of the car due to being in 2nd and if he had spun the other way it could’ve hurt someone.
          This sort of stuff should be practiced at testing, not when other teams are out in the grid and if a penalty is needed to send a message, part of me thinks that it is justified.

    2. Barry calm down!

      1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
        25th June 2021, 19:27

        Only the FIA can stop me!

  6. someone or something
    25th June 2021, 17:46

    What’s with the “potentially dangerous”? Spinning uncontrollably in a tight pit lane, with dozens of unsuspecting people around, is dangerous, plain and simple.
    What does ‘potentially’ even add, semantically speaking? “Someone could’ve got hurt, but thankfully that didn’t happen” – Yeah, well, isn’t that just what the word ‘dangerous’ conveys by itself?

    That being said, I think the penalty is a bit too harsh. A warning would’ve been a more appropriate sanction for an honest mistake. But I guess the message the Stewards wanted to convey was “Don’t”.

    1. What’s with the “potentially dangerous”?

      Relax. That just limits you to three handguns or less.

    2. It’s very very typical to give penalties for “honest mistakes”, this is not new, just an example: vettel slowing down sainz in q2 or something in austria in 2018? It wasn’t purposeful, 3 places grid drop, so.

      1. someone or something
        26th June 2021, 9:10

        Okay, I meant an honest mistake that resulted neither in a sporting advantage for the offending driver, nor in a sporting disadvantage for anyone else?
        We’re talking about a spin in free practice. Not about a maneuvre that can affect another competitor’s entire session.

        1. They’ll still give penalties if it endangers safety, even if it’s an honest mistake, see Hamilton’s practice start in Russia last year.

  7. So I have a naive question. If I want to try to see if leaving in 2nd gear works, where am I supposed to try it? Since I know there’s a very high chance the car will spin out.

    1. someone or something
      25th June 2021, 17:57

      The exit of the pit lane. The event notes (I forget the exact name of the document) specify where exactly you can try out things like that.
      As for using the second gear to accelerate away: That actually reduces your torque and consequently your risk of losing traction and spinning. Hence why it’s sometimes used for wet starts.

      1. So if I were to spin at the pit exit, I don’t get penalized?
        Also, yes I was curious about the 2nd gear. The whole idea of that is to reduce wheel spin. Weird it actually caused a spin.

        1. someone or something
          25th June 2021, 21:26

          So if I were to spin at the pit exit, I don’t get penalized?

          I guess so. Spinning in the pitlane wouldn’t normally be penalised, either. However, the Stewards didn’t seem to like the fact that Mercedes/Bottas were trying to find time in the pits with an experiment that turned out risky.

      2. The exit of the pit lane.

        They are not allowed to stop at the pit exit at Red Bull Ring due to how narrow the pit exit is, That is why they do the practice race starts on the grid at the end of each session.

        1. someone or something
          25th June 2021, 21:18

          Good point. Forgot about that.

    2. Why not test the idea in the simulator? If the simulator is fairly close to the car then some sort of loss of control would have been evident.

      1. Jockey Ewing
        25th June 2021, 19:07

        I think the simulator of these great teams is likely realistic enough to practice this.
        I mean if they do not model the gear ratios, and the torque curve, and the tyres almost perfectly, what is the point of the simulator?

        I think if Bottas had no experience with starting this car at 2nd, then initially should have tried what to expect from this while doing practice starts (outside of the pits), as there is some opportunity to do so for everyone.
        As I have seen after or at the end of the FP2, many drivers did practice-start-like efforts on the main straight.
        And after that is ok, go for doing this at the pits.

        I’m sure these drivers are good enough to start such a car from 2nd gear at almost every occasion, so something gone bad there, or he not really tried to do so previously.
        Once I started an old and raw RWD car from 2nd, and not experienced anything special, a bit more rev and slower release of the clutch was needed.
        I forgot why I did that, probably I just forgot to go into neutral at a brief stop. My father, a professional driver on large trucks was next to me, and probably warned me that I forgot going to neutral, and what to do then, as I had to start immediately, but it was not difficult. He told me that he could do it from even higher gears too. Imo on snow, or ice, or at very powerful cars with short 1st gear, people are sometimes doing this.

        But obviously at F1 they are pushing much more, and the surface at the pits is sometimes a bit slippery, and probably the track or the tyres were colder than expected. I expected a few penalty points or something comparable as a punishment for this. Verstappen sometimes used 2nd gear at the start of wet races, if done with care, it can reduce wheelspin, imo these drivers are good enough to do such things.

        1. @jockey from Dallas, 50+ years ago I owned a mini 850 with a broken (ok I broke it) 1st gear, never had any wheelspin starting in 2nd, perhaps I should have tried being an F1 driver.

      2. someone or something
        25th June 2021, 21:39

        The exact grip levels of a piece of painted concrete somewhere outdoors, where weather, rubber and/or leaked fluids from different cars, dust and pollen particles and a zillion other environmental factors can play a role, is one of the few things a simulator cannot predict in any meaningful way.
        If it were the case, there’d be no need for practice starts whatsoever, since you would be able to simply work out the correct clutch settings in the sim. But that’s not how it works.

    3. Hey Scary, Jowett Javelin and Jupiter owners mostly pull away in second gear, the reason for this is that there are no good condition first gears left! The engine has good torque for this.

      I find it hard to believe that a Formula One car can snap around within a speed restricted roadway. I remember at the 1957 British Grand Prix and seeing Luigi Musso accelerating hard in his Ferrari from a crowded pit area, with both hands off the steering wheel while adjusting his goggles. To a young lad, that was impressive!

      1. someone or something
        26th June 2021, 2:10

        I find it hard to believe that a Formula One car can snap around within a speed restricted roadway.

        Why though? The car accelerates just like it would anywhere else on the circuit (probably with the most aggressive MGU-K deployment as well, because not accelerating as quickly as possible can cost you a lot of time at slow speeds), and the speed limiter only comes into play at the 80 kph barrier.
        On the contrary, the pits could be the most likely place for a spin, considering the acceleration from a standstill and the cold tyres. However, the lack of:
        – cornering loads
        – sudden changes of gradient or camber
        – uneven surfaces, such as kerbs or grass, etc.

        means that spins in the pit lane are exceedingly rare, compared to the parts of the track (i.e. corners) where the factors mentioned above can undermine the cars’ stability under acceleration.

  8. Unless there’s something fundamentally different about the way an F1 car is put together, why would you encounter higher wheelspin in second gear than in first?

    1. @mrfabulous

      I think the more accurate way to think about it is the opposite. A higher gearing means the tires will spend faster for the same engine RPM. With the power and torque in an F1 car it’s quite easy to get the tires spinning, and once they start spinning a higher gear will allow the tires to go much faster.

      Those of us who don’t get to drive very powerful cars just associate a higher gear with bogging the engine down. And even F1 cars can use higher gears to bog the engine down a little and prevent wheel spin. But once the wheel spins starts it can get out of control very quickly.

      1. @slotopen, Makes me wonder how much time you can save accelerating from zero to pit lane limit in F1, and I guess speed limiter works from front wheels.

    2. RandomMallard (@)
      25th June 2021, 18:06

      @mrfabulous I think @slotopen explains it pretty well. F1 cars almost always spin their wheels leaving the pits, so doing that in second gear is not really unusual. However, because they are in second gear, the engine can deliver more torque to the wheels, meaning the tyres, which are already spinning, can spin even faster.

      1. Actually, lower gears are torque multipliers. More torque can be delivered to the driving wheel in first gear than second.

    3. Even I had the same query.

      My hunch is that Mercedes probably feel their pit box is not offering enough grip on 1st gear and hence a 2nd gear start might be better. Bottas tried it and probably leaned on the accelerator too much hoping that the 2nd gear would take care of any potential wheel-spin. But he misjudged.

      Or I may be wrong.

    4. My guess is the car has some sort of power restriction in First gear to prevent a loss of traction that isn’t there on the other gears. I’m not exactly sure how you’d do that without infringing the anti-traction control rules, maybe they just limit the accelerator to something like 1/6 of its power range or tweak the engine compression and don’t use the hybrid system. Running with this scenario, starting in Second gear would mean the car has access to the full power of the engine and hybrid system, with only the pitlane speed limiter to stop the car from accelerating to 300 km/h.
      As I think about it, the car should have been in one of the less powerful modes anyway. Don’t they have a mode that makes the engine behave a bit like a regular engine?
      I agree with the Stewards in this case.

  9. Appropriate penalty

  10. Jack McCallum
    25th June 2021, 18:01

    Its a mistake maybe a fine for mercedes but the three place penalty felt harsh. I see all these ideas about mercedes and pit-stops werent redbull the team to complain about DAS. Didnt see hate when they did that. So why when appreantly mercedes do something is it not acceptable

  11. Well that may have championship implications, and for something so seemingly odd and silly. As for it being too harsh, maybe stewards looked at his data and saw something weird. I mean, the pits are generally dangerous and every time I see a car power slide out of the box with the mechanics in the news box forward sort of scooching out of the way with their air lines I wince. Someone is going to get it slightly wrong and take out a left-rear tire person one day. It always seems very marginal.

    1. Tommy Scragend
      25th June 2021, 18:39

      If you think the pit lane is dangerous now, just think what it was like in the 80s! Back then there wasn’t the restriction about only going out into the pit lane when a stop was about to happen; teams used to mill about in the pit lane all the time.

      And no speed limits either!

      1. Don’t worry. I’m old enough to remember that craziness lol. If you want to see what could and did go wrong before pit limiters, look for the Michael Andretti/ Fittipaldi pit lane crash in CART from 1991 on YT. Fittipaldi almost launched himself off the back of Andretti over the pit wall. Cars blasting down pit lane full bore used to be normal, now that idea seems terrifying.

  12. Good penalty, well applied. The pit lane is the last place to try these sort of shenanigans. Bottas takes out a mechanic trying to leave the box in 2nd gear chasing a tenth of a second, then what?
    Good on the FIA.

    1. This incident occurred the day after news about the FIA forcing the teams into performing slower pitstops 🤔

  13. There are places to safely practice getting up to speed from a brief stop; and those are at the end of the pitlane for a reason. Very appropriate that Mercedes’ weird antics were penalized.

    1. All the cars do it all the time to lay rubber in the box. Maybe Bottas thought it would be a good idea to lay it in the actual pit lane?

    2. @cashnotclass They are not allowed to stop & do starts at the end of the pit lane at Red Bull Ring due to how narrow the pit exit is.

      Additionally even on circuits where they are allowed to do practice starts at the pit exit the practice start location at pit exit is geared to practice race starts so the surface is the same as the tarmac used on the track/grid.

      The pit boxes are always on a concrete surface (As cars in other categories that use air jacks can dig into/tear up tarmac) so any standing start data gathered from a tarmac surface at pit exit or the grid would be completely irrelevant for what Mercedes were looking to test in this instance which was improving the getaway after a pit stop.

  14. Has anyone ever spun in the pit lane before?

    1. Indycar seems the place for that. Will Power at the last 500. But F1? Entry and exits yes ; but can’t recall anything like this.

      1. D`Ambrosio hungary 2011?

  15. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    25th June 2021, 19:35

    Can see the McLaren cars having engine issues this weekend

  16. Mercedes worked so hard just to deserve this penalty. You can call it an anti-Mercedes comment :)

  17. I’m gonna stay neutral on this.

  18. Would have done it Mazespin, would he ve lost his F1 super licence, no 3 grid penalties.

    1. Well, but mazepin already did plenty of stuff that would put him under scrutiny, bottas won’t be a great driver but he’s good enough for f1.

  19. Just to answer the question as why they didn’t just practice this at the end of the pit lane or on the grid after the session.

    They didn’t do it at pit exit as they aren’t allowed to stop at pit exit at red bull ring due to how narrow the exit is. Additionally even if they were able to stop at pit exit it wouldn’t have got them any relevant data just as trying it during the practice start on the grid at the end of the session wouldn’t have.

    The pit boxes are always on a concrete surface (As cars in other categories that use air jacks can dig into/tear up tarmac) so any standing start data gathered from a tarmac surface at pit exit or the grid would be completely irrelevant for what Mercedes were looking to test in this instance which was improving the getaway after a pit stop.

  20. @gt-racer Can’t they test such things at Brackley? It seems dangerous to do such things, without warning the other teams, while people are working in the pitlane.

    1. You don’t think other teams do this? It happens constantly. Apart from laying down as much rubber as possible they are also trying to find the optimum getaway from a pit stop.

    2. Thing is, they don’t have any cars there, nor really do they have an appropriate surface @paeschli. The cars will return to the factory only after the second race in Austria.

    3. @bascb @paeschli They don’t need to warn other teams because every team does practice launches from the pit box during practice not only to practice the getaway but also to lay down rubber.

      It’s also highly probable that other teams/drivers have over the years also practiced what Bottas was doing with the 2nd gear pull away but obviously just not had the spin which was simply a driver error.

      Until a few years ago teams would do practice launches from the pit box a lot more as they used to be able to do it whenever a car returned to the pits, So the driver would do the launch before the team pulled them back into the garage. Now they are only able to do a practice launch if the car is returning to the track so they do it less often.

  21. I have been watching F1 for 40 years and can’t remember an incident where a driver has had a spin when leaving the pit box. In my opinion and I would say this whether this regardless of team or driver that it is a deserved penalty.

    The bottom line surrounding this incident is that it was not a normal incident in Formula 1 and more of something you would expect to see in a rookie level of racing.

  22. I don’t understand how people say a three place grid penalty was harsh. F1 have a zero tolerance to incidents in the pits and rightly so. It’s very dangerous. Even reversing is illegal, even if you so it for a metre.

    So spinning out of control deserves something like this…

    1. @fer-no65 Fer sher. I also don’t think it is too harsh at all. He could have really hurt someone, and so a warning, or a fine to a rich team would just seem impotent. I think it is exactly appropriate, and I’m sure the stewards can reference a rule and it’s accompanying penalty options to support their decision.

  23. Having all now been treated for PTSD for being within 10 ft of a spinning car, the McLaren crew will spend Sunday looking like they are holding the airlines clear for their rivals exits, but in reality be standing as far out in the pit lane as possible, with the sole intention of making the exit angle as difficult as possible. Not caring a jot about that back wheel passing them by with inches to spare.

    1. Lol and therefore VB should be free to spin in the pits at will during practice? Or does there have to be some trust that drivers are to keep control of their cars, just as it is also the responsibility of the lolly pop person to release the driver safely. Is a crew not allowed to be in place waiting for their driver to come in while another car near them leaves the pits too? No, I doubt the crew has PTSD from this, but I also agree VB should be taught a lesson. He’s the one that lost control of his car. None of this was on the Mac crew as much as you seem to want to ‘spin’ it that way.

      1. Yes, thats exactly right. When I post a glib remark about the McLaren pit crew what I mean is that Bottas should be free to pirouette down the pit lane. It can mean nothing else.

  24. Jockey Ewing
    25th June 2021, 22:27

    At last week, I learned, that the pit boxes are generally marked out with tape by the teams.

    As I see, the pit boxes are not completely parallell with the pit lane, but a bit angled. I guess it is angled to help the launching from the box, to make it more comfortable.
    Are the teams free to choose this angle to some extent, or are the rules restrictive about it?

    What is Mercedes’ problem with having the first pit box on the pit lane currently? Is launching, or stopping more difficult there? Is this problem present at many of the venues, or is it present at some venues only?

    1. Jockey Ewing
      25th June 2021, 22:36

      My guess is: probably it is harder to precisely stop at the first pit box, if it is too close to the pit entry/speed limiter line or something like that. Then, if there are enough garages at a venue, they could avoid using/assigning the first some garages.

    2. The Sky Ant Davidson video deals with some of that.

  25. Hang on, so Mercedes seem to be the instigators for the rule change to slow down pit stops on safety grounds and then they go and do this? How ridiculous. If this was in a race, this would have been disastrous.

    1. Yes, it’s really shameful.

  26. What I’d love to see analyzed/covered regarding the pit stop spin is why Merc are even trying a new procedure. Is it in response to how they lost more time than expected in the undercut last week? Is it related to their questions of the FIA about pit stop procedures (as we have seen in the past they tend to ask first before implementing things which could be controversial) or are they needing to claw back lost time due to the new procedures slowing down the stop itself?

    Typically pit stop timing looks solely at the time stopped rather than the time spent in the pit lane and entering/leaving the box or even the braking into and accelearation out of the lane. There seems to be a whole bunch of variables there that could form a really interesting and sometimes important analysis especially when the undercut working is decided by a tenth or two.

    1. Well Davidson did look at it in detail, and he is the Mercedes man in the simulator.

  27. Well, yeah, racing is “potentially dangerous” too, so here we go…

  28. Well Davidson did look at it in detail, and he is the Mercedes man in the simulator.

  29. So let me summarize here:
    “During the hearing [Bottas] stated that in the past they have been losing time in the pit departure. So they tried something new, which was to leave in second gear.” We saw the result.
    And it is this team which queried FIA over safety issues due to too quick pitstops (see the other article on this website). Hum…

  30. With no in season testing and extremely limited upgrade options the teams are effectively locked into the cars and strategies they turned up with at the first race. For a series that prides itself on innovation, it’s effectively a spec series until the season ends.

  31. Mercedes are such bad loosers.

    Now everyone remoteley liking them will hate them. To the point of getting unfair punishment.

    Grid drop is bad for the show, dont do it

    We want a fair fight at the front, so rules should acomodate that, not punish a driver who is up against it as it is.

  32. I read the comments before seeing the footage. I was convinced he drifted past 3 pit boxes in a cloud of smoke with one middle finger in the air while taking selfies with the other screaming obscenities about Masi, Mosley and Epstein.

    I just saw the footage. Looks clumsy and for sure worth of a penalty. Grid drop seems overreacting though, much the same as most of the reactions here.

    1. As is slowing down pit stops but if Mercedes feel that the pits need to be made safer and the FIA agrees, I would assume both would be happy about a grid penalty for an unsafe act in the pits. They’re getting what they want.

      1. I agree, but an overreaction to one side should not be compensated with another overreaction. This shouldn’t be a grid drop and RBR should be punished for an unsafe release when the actually do that, not because they might…
        I also don’t like you can get a false start for starting after the lights go out, but withing some arbitrary time frame called reaction time. So what if someone anticipates the start light. As long as they don’t start before the light went out. Too much energy is wasted on policing stuff that doesn’t need to be policed at all.

  33. New Text Message from: “Jérôme d’Ambrosio”
    “Hey Valtteri, that was what I did 10 years ago in Hungary!”

  34. What prevents the author of this article to include a video in the article?

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