George Russell has kept his first F1 points in Sakhir GP after Mercedes were fined for the tyre goof-up which Toto Wolff explained about.
It was all going well for Russell and Mercedes in F1 Sakhir GP until the Brit’s Williams car being driven by Jack Aitken spun in the final corner to get the safety car out. He lost his front wing which had to be picked up as the German team decided to pit both their drivers.
Russell was ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the double-stack but an internal radio failure meant, the Mercedes crew put the Finn’s tyres on the Brit. It delayed the second stop massively as well, where an used set of hard tyres was put on the #77 car.
Russell, meanwhile, had to pit to change to his own tyres. He moved up to second but had a slow puncture, which forced him to pit and drop him to 15th. He fought back into ninth with the fastest lap as he finished behind Bottas eventually.
But Russell and Mercedes were put under investigation for ‘Alleged breach Articles 24.2 a) and 24.3 e) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations. Refer Technical Delegate’s report document 3’ – which was related to extra usage of tyres than allocated.
A driver can only use 13 sets of dry tyres in a F1 grand prix weekend, where one set means two of front and two rears. It was noted that Russell may have used 14 seats which was a breach in the 2020 FIA Sporting Regulations, as they were asked to report to the stewards.
The Article 24.2 a) said ‘Except under Articles 24.1(b), 24.4(e) and 24.4(f), no driver may use more than thirteen sets of dry-weather tyres, four sets of intermediate tyres and three sets of wet-weather tyres during an Event.
A complete set of tyres will be deemed to comprise two front and two rear tyres all of which must be of the same specification and as allocated by the FIA, however, sets of the same specification may be mixed following the qualifying practice session’.
At the same time, the Article 24.3 e) stated ‘The use of tyres without appropriate identification may result in a grid position penalty or disqualification from the race’. This put both Russell and Mercedes on the brink of disqualification.
The stewards, however, took a different note as the FIA fined Mercedes by €20,000 for the goof-up, which they stated happened for the first time in F1. It was a direct result of a radio failure, where the pit crew did not take in the full information from the pit wall.
They were opting for double-stack which was missed. The FIA noted that Mercedes were quick to rectify the issue with Russell – within the three laps – and the subsequent Bottas pit stop was considerably slow as they tried to not repeat it with the Finn.
Even though they have fined Mercedes but the FIA is open to amending Article 24. 4 b) which talks about the three-lap tolerance given to drivers and teams. At this juncture, they don’t have a provision for that but they are open to add it in.
Here’s FIA’s explanation of fine of €20,000:
“The Stewards heard from the Mr Ron Meadows (team representative) and Mr Nikolas Tombazis (FIA Formula One Technical Delegate). As described in the latter’s report (document 34) Car 63 was fitted with front tyres that were allocated to Car 77,” the stewards note stated.
“This was caused by a radio communications technical issue wherein the pit wall’s communication to the pit crew that Car 63 was entering the pits prior to (and not after) Car 77, failed to be received by the crew of Car 63 because at the same time, the driver of Car 63 transmitted over the top of that message.
“This resulted in the front tyres of Car 77 accidentally going onto Car 63. (The cars were “double stacked” at the time.) This is clearly a breach of the regulations and would normally involve a sporting penalty up to Disqualification. However, in this case there are mitigating circumstances, additional to the radio issue referred to above.
“Firstly, the team rectified the problem within 1 lap. This involved Car 63 making another pit stop, thus dropping it further down the classification. Secondly, Car 77 made a pit stop to change tyres only to find that the front tyres to be fitted to it, were on Car 63, so was sent out after considerable delay, with the tyres that were on Car 77 prior to the pit stop.
“This also impacted the final classification of Car 77. Thirdly, although this type of infringement is not catered for under the “3 lap tolerance” referred to in the second paragraph of Article 24.4 b) (which currently only refers to the use of tyres of differing specifications), we consider it to be similar in nature.
“However, the responsibility to fit tyres in compliance with the regulations, still rests with The Stewards any team and thus a penalty is considered as being required. It is recommended that the FIA consider amending Article 24.4 b) to accommodate this type of breach when it is rectified without delay. It is noted that this type of breach has not previously been experienced in Formula One.”
Speaking about the race with TV media, Wolff put his hands up to admit the wrongs they did. “For us it was just a colossal f**k up,” he said. “I know I’m not allowed to say that but it was. One of the tyre crews didn’t hear the call since we had a radio failure in the garage.
“When the car came in, they didn’t know we had to change the tyres – or the wrong tyres – and this is why we exited with the wrong set of tyres. We had to obviously pit again after we put Bottas’, but by then the race was not lost. It’s just that if one bad thing comes.
“It was a safety stop. Sure, we were fine on the hards and we could have stayed out – we had the gap, and you can question it but I think it was absolutely the right call, just the wrong tyres and – I can’t even watch these pictures.
“We overall did a good job until then, but technical failures happen. There wasn’t any human error. The radio was not functioning but we don’t know why. These things happen and we need to learn from it,” summed up Wolff.
Here’s the video of the mix up: https://www.formula1.com/en/video/2020/12/2020_Sakhir_Grand_Prix__Mercedes_tyre_mix-up_costs_Bottas_and_Russell.html
Here’s how F1 Sakhir GP panned out