Formula 1 teams will now be handed 10-place grid penalties if they allow cars to leave their pits with loose wheels.
The move comes mid the ongoing safety clampdown triggered by a wheel from Mark Webber’s Red Bull hitting an FOM cameraman at the German Grand Prix. Sources have revealed that the FIA informed teams of the new penalty system at a team managers’ meeting in Hungary on Thursday.
If a car is allowed to leave its pit spot with a loose wheel in any session then that outfit will be handed a 10-place grid penalty. Mandating a minimum pit stop time to try to lessen the need for teams to rush pit stops was also discussed, but this received no support at all.
It was pointed out in the meeting that Fernando Alonso and Renault’s lost wheel incident at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix came when refueling was still in place so tire changes were not hurried.
MASSA: PIT SPEED NOT THE PROBLEM
The imposition of a grid penalties for pitlane errors comes against the backdrop of a clampdown on media presence in the pits. Both FOM and the FIA are now restricting the number of journalists, photographers and camera crews in the pits through free practice sessions, and upholding their total ban for qualifying and races. Furthermore, this weekend will be the first where the pitlane speed limit will be maintained at 80 kph throughout every session and the race.
However, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa (LEFT) thinks Formula 1 chiefs should be focusing on making pit stops safer, rather than getting obsessed with the pitlane. The Brazilian reckons that more efforts should be made in finding ways to guarantee that wheels cannot come loose after botched stops.
“I don’t think the problem came because of the speed,” he said. “The problem came because somebody couldn’t fix the tires on the car. That’s definitely dangerous.
“If the car goes out at 80kph or 100 kph, the tires will be quick anyway if they come off the car. That was the problem.
“Pit stops now at two seconds means mistakes are bigger than before. The problem is to make pit stops safer not just for the driver driving the car but also for everybody around.
“If you have less people, it’s OK but if the tire had not hit the cameraman it could have gone into a mechanic. It’s dangerous anyway.”