Mercedes will need to take the car back to its Brackley factory to finally get the nut off the front right wheel
By Olivia Kairu
Toto Wolff provided a surprising new perspective about Valtteri Bottas’ failed pit-stop in Monaco.
According to the Mercedes team principal, the Finn driver was partly to blame for the pit stop disaster. Bottas was running second on Sunday’s race before retiring on lap 31 due to the wheel nut getting stuck to the front right wheel of his car.
“It’s never someone’s fault, it’s always multifaceted,” said Wolff to Auto Motor und Sport. “Valtteri stopped a little too early.”
“This meant the mechanic had to apply the impact wrench at an angle. The awkward angle damaged the wheel nut and we couldn’t bring it down.”
Max Verstappen got a first win in Monaco to lead the drivers’ championship for the first time in his career. Bottas’ retirement contributed to Red Bull rising to the top of the constructors’ championship as well.
Further listening: PODCAST l The Chicane Crew Podcast reviews the Monaco Grand Prix
Further reading: Overcuts over overtakes: Strategy helps Red Bull take the lead and Aston Martin’s double points haul
Bottas was far from happy with the incident that denied him a fourth podium in five races. The pit-stop to change from the soft tire compound to the hard one was also an attempt at an undercut strategy
“I don’t know what happened in the pit stop, to be honest, I don’t know yet if it was human error or a technical issue,” said the Finnish driver after the race. “But, in any case, we need to learn from it. It’s a big mistake by us and it should not happen.”
Mercedes technical director James Allison explained that the wheel gun machined the wheel nut to the axle.
“If we don’t quite get the pitstop gun cleanly on the nut, then it can chip away at the driving faces of the nut,” Allison said. “We call it machining the nut. It is a bit like when you take a Phillips head screwdriver, and you don’t get it squarely in the cross of the screwdriver.”
“Given the power of the gun, you can end up with no driving face and you just machine the nut down to a place where there is nothing left to grab a hold of, and that is what we had today.”
He also revealed that the team will need to take the car back to its factory in Brackley to finally get the wheel off the car. “It will have to be ground off, get a Dremel out and painfully slice through the remnants of the wheel nut. We will do that back at the factory.”
Far from a good year
Bottas’ 2021 run with Mercedes has been far from a steady one.
Receiving an unusual radio message from Wolff himself in Bahrain telling him to push harder and colliding with Williams driver George Russell in Imola are just two examples.
The Finn, who has been with Mercedes since 2017, also finished third in Portugal from starting on pole and admitted to holding up his teammate Lewis Hamilton in Spain after radio messages instructed him to let him by.
The latest fiasco in Monaco adds to the hiccups that have led to a troubled season for the Finn, placing him fourth in the driver standings, behind McLaren’s Lando Norris. Bottas also had to endure rumours about being demoted before the end of the year. His contract with the team ends at the end of the season and it’s not expected to be extended.
Wolff mentioned plans for an investigation into the incident and defended the mechanic responsible for replacing the front-right tyre.
“We need to review the design, we need to review the material of our wheel nut because the mechanics that operate the wheel nuts need to do it in a way that you can’t machine it off. And as a matter of fact, the mechanic that did that is one of the best, and one of the fittest in terms of pit-stop speed that the team has. So there are always things coming together. It’s never someone’s fault, it’s always multi-faceted.”
“You have to take a weekend like this on the chin – we lost a few points but this is a long championship, it will swing back and forth and in the end, we will see in Abu Dhabi who has their nose ahead. We will regroup and look back, as much as it hurts, to learn the lessons and come back stronger.”