Mercedes have confirmed that drivers performing donuts at the end of races is “not brilliant” for the components of their cars.
The crowd-pleasing, controlled smoky spins are now a Formula 1 tradition, although this season’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix donuts from Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were only for the benefit of TV viewers as the race took place behind closed doors.
But they are not good for the health of the car, as Mercedes’ motorsport strategy director James Vowles admitted in the debrief revealed by the World Champions following the race at Yas Marina.
Responding to a question about whether donuts harm the engine or gearbox, Vowles said: “At the end of the race, you may have seen both of our cars doing donuts together at the same time on the start-finish straight.
“The question is ‘is it bad for the components?’ It’s not brilliant. You are running the engine near enough on the limiter as you are going around in circles.
“The gearbox itself, it depends on how you release the power down. If you progressively put the power through it’s okay, we have generally seen that we haven’t damaged the gearbox permanently, but it’s not great for any of the set-up.
“Clearly our car was not designed to have rear wheels spinning and rotating around in circles for 30 seconds to a minute.
“But that car also will be stripped down after the race. We had the post-season test in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday but it was built up with other components rather than the ones that were used that weekend.”
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) December 13, 2020
“Verstappen wasn’t with us and I asked Red Bull why and I think that was just a communication error,” said Vowles.
“They had forgotten about it and Verstappen therefore didn’t make his way to the grid.”
The FIA’s attitude to donuts has certainly softened in the seven years since Sebastian Vettel won the last of his four World Championships for Red Bull.
In 2013, Vettel performed some donuts after winning the Indian Grand Prix to secure the drivers’ crown – and was hit with a reprimand from the stewards for he had “failed to proceed directly to parc ferme under article 43.3 of the F1 sporting regulations”.
Not only that, but Red Bull were given a 25,000 euros fine!