In recent years Mercedes-AMG has made the business of winning in F1 look very easy. It isn’t infallible, of course, so every now and then, everything goes to pot for the team during a Grand Prix weekend. Just take last week’s showing at Monaco as an example.
Suffering from tyre temperature issues, Lewis Hamilton qualified way down in 7th place, his worst result since the 2018 German GP. Teammate Valtteri Bottas was well-placed to score a decent finish for the team, starting from second following the pre-race elimination of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc, but that wasn’t to be either.
Pitting from what seemed like a secure second place, a disastrous stop ended Bottas’ race. The wheel gun for the front-right wheel wasn’t seated correctly, meaning the “driving faces” (a series of vertical tabs) on the nut were ground off.
On the TV footage, a cloud of metal filings could be seen flying out of the wheel. Several different wheel guns were used as Bottas slid down the order, but it was no use - there just wasn’t anything left for the devices to grapple. That wheel wasn’t going anywhere, and at the time of writing, the rim and its spent tyre remains attached to the Mercedes W12.
“It will have to be ground off, get a Dremel [cutting tool] out and painfully slice through the remnants of the wheel nut,” Mercedes technical director James Allison said, adding, “We will do that back at the factory.”
To prevent a repeat of the pitstop mishap, team principal Toto Wolff has suggested changes to the kind of wheel nut Mercedes currently uses. “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,” he said. He went on to note that the man behind the wheel gun at the time “is one of the best, and one of the fittest in terms of pit stop speed, that the team has.”
As for the sister car, Hamilton wasn’t able to get the Merc beyond its starting point of seventh, handing the driver’s championship lead to Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who took his first Monaco victory. RBR also now holds the lead in the fight for the constructor’s title, albeit by only a single point.