Monday, July 27, 2009

Renault Banned for Loose Wheelnut

According to the stewards:
Having carefully reviewed the available film recordings and radio recordings and having met the team manager twice to discuss the matter the stewards believe:
  1. that the competitor knowlingly released car no. 7 from the pit stop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel nut itself may not have been properly secured,
  2. being aware of this failed to take any action to prevent the car from leaving the pit lane,
  3. failed to inform the driver of this problem or to advise him to take appropriate action givent he circumstance,s even though the driver contacted the team by radio believing he had a puncture,
  4. this resulted in a heavy car part detaching at Turn 5 and the wheel itself detaching at Turn 9.
Offence: Breach of article 23.1.i and Article 3.2 of the 2009 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.

Penalty: The competitor ING Renault F1 Team is suspended from the next event in the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship.
The relevant sections are:
3.2 Competitors must ensure that their cars comply with the conditions of eligibility and safety throughout practice and the race

23.1.i) It is the responsibility of the competitor to release his car after a pit stop only when it is safe to do so.
My initial reaction was that this was an excessively strong punishment. Other commentators have pointed out that there have been incidents in the past which, while not exactly the same, are similar enough to draw some comparisons to. A more proportional penalty would have been a fine of some kind.

Consider that the last team to get a ban on participation was the BAR team, and this was after they had been caught running their cars underweight ie a blatant violation of the technical regulations.

But after the death of Henry Surtees last week, and Massa's accident this weekend, being concerned about debris on the race track and large masses of parts being shed at racing speeds... it still feels like a knee-jerk reaction, but one which might be understandable.

The suggestion from the Stewards' report is that Renault was aware of the problem before the car was released. This does make it a more serious offense. However I'd put it down to miscommunication in the pits during a high-stress event.

I would look for Renault to appeal the ban, and at the very least tie it up in the courts until after Valencia.

Oh, and probably quietly fire the guy who was responsible for the front-right.