Bottas partly to blame for wheel nut fiasco

Jon Wilde
Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas

To all the world, it looked like Valtteri Bottas’ exit from the Monaco Grand Prix was zero per cent his fault – but Toto Wolff disagrees.

Bottas was running in a solid second position behind Max Verstappen when he came in for his scheduled one and only pit stop.

But when the Finn ground to a halt, he never got going again. A problem with the wheel nut on the front right corner of the W12 meant the tyre could not be removed, leaving Bottas helpless and having to climb out of the car with his race over.

The driver, simply waiting to be released while the mechanics did their work, was completely blameless, right? Wrong, says the Mercedes F1 team principal and co-owner.

“Valtteri stopped a little too early,” said Wolff, quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, indicating he had pulled up slightly short of his marks.

“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.”

It was the latest episode in a difficult season for Bottas at Mercedes as he strives to show them he is worthy of a sixth campaign with the team next year.

At the opening race in Bahrain he criticised the strategy he had been given and was later seen apparently being cut short by Wolff while trying to talk to him; at Imola he crashed in a collision with George Russell; in Portugal he finished third after starting from pole, and in Spain he held up team-mate Lewis Hamilton after being told on the radio to let him by.

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The wheel nut fiasco was an embarrassment for Mercedes and as you would expect, Wolff said there will be a full investigation.

“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,” said Wolff after his team fell behind Red Bull in both World Championship tables, Hamilton finishing seventh behind winner Verstappen.

“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.

“Days like Sunday are the ones we learn the most from, but that doesn’t stop the experience from feeling awful.

“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.”

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