McLaren has become the latest team to receive a significant fine for an unsafe release from pit lane following Friday’s free practice sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Stoffel Vandoorne was waved out of his pit box before the right rear tyre had been securely attached to the MCL33. The incident happened in the final quarter hour of FP2.
“After the pit stop I left the box and I didn’t feel that there was anything wrong straight away,” Vandoorne reported.
“It was only as I turned left into turn 3 that I felt something happen,” he continued. “When I looked in the mirror I could see that the right rear wheel was wobbly, so I immediately parked the car as a safety precaution.”
“We don’t know yet what caused the issue in Stoffel’s practice pit-stop,” confirmed McLaren sporting director Eric Boullier. “It appears the right rear wheel didn’t attach properly, but we’re still investigating.”
After parking the car by the side of the track, Vandoorne then assisted the marshalls in pushing it to safety. The incident was handled under local waved yellows and avoided the need to red flag the session.
It’s the latest of a number of similar incidents in the opening weekends of the 2018 season.
- FP2: Hamilton just ahead in tight second practice in Shanghai
Both Haas cars retired from the Australian Grand Prix with problems with new tyres after their first pit stops of the race. And in Bahrain, Kimi Raikkonen suffered a loose wheel in Friday practice.
A more serious incident during the race itself saw Raikkonen ushered out prematurely before one wheel had been replaced. He knocked over one of his mechanics as he pulled away, and was forced to retire from the race.
In each case stewards had applied a team fine rather than a grid or time penalty for the race. This was the decision again on Friday over Vandoorne.
“Consistent with previous decisions of a similar nature, the Stewards decided that the grid place penalty […] would not be applied as the driver took all appropriate actions at the first available opportunity,” the FIA said in a statement.
“Accordingly, the Stewards fined the team 5,000 euros,” the statement concluded.
That’s a lot less than the 50,000 fine imposed on Ferrari after last week’s race. It reflects the relative severity of the two incidents and that fact that this is a ‘first offense’ of its type for McLaren this season.
“At the moment we’re still investigating,” said Vandoorne. “”It’s a bit too early to say what caused it.
“Pit-stops are part of Formula 1, and I think they always will be in some way.
“Of course, we don’t like to see incidents like we saw in Bahrain,” he added. “We’ve seen a couple of cars having to park up and it’s definitely not what we want. But it happens every now and then.”
Before the incident, Vandoorne completed 22 laps in FP2 and was 14th fastest. His team mate Fernando Alonso was tenth quickest in the afternoon session.
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