Nico Hulkenberg has avoided a penalty after his team were investigated for a bizarre incident in the second phase of sprint race qualifying.
The incident occured as Hulkenberg swerved left to exit his pit box and join the fast lane during the session. In doing so, his rear-left wheel clipped the front-left wheel that had been removed from his car, which was being held by a Haas mechanic. That caused the car to bounce up into the air.
“Jesus, man. What’s a tyre doing there?,” Hulkenberg said after being released into the pit lane. His engineer Gary Gannon informed his driver that “we’re all okay,” and Haas later confirmed none of their team members had been hurt in the incident.
Afterwards Hulkenberg narrowly reached SQ3 in tenth place, before taking fourth on the sprint race grid in the final phase of the session. However the stewards announced they would investigate the pit lane incident at the end of qualifying.
The stewards determined it had been an “unfortunate and unique incident” and decided to hand Haas a suspended fine.
“The team representative presented a comprehensive report of the investigations carried out by the team concerning the incident,” the stewards stated.
“The removed front-left wheel was held too close to the car and the driver also took a sharper angle of departure due to the car controller of the next team in the pit lane, standing further out towards the fast lane than normal.”
The stewards also said that they “were impressed with the quality of the team investigations and report, and in particular, the corrective actions proposed to avoid a similar incident in the future. These corrective actions involve a change of procedures and crew positioning during a pit stop.”
The suspended fine means that Hulkenberg will assume his fourth place on the grid for this afternoon’s sprint race, just behind Lando Norris and ahead of Carlos Sainz Jnr’s Ferrari and Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.
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