Haas experienced a nightmare couple of laps in the Australian Grand Prix as both cars pitted from top six places, only to retire close to the pit exit with loose wheels. It turns out the wheels on the nuts were cross-threaded but the automated release system gave the drivers the green light anyway. The perfect storm of wheel nut misalignments and a non-reactive automated release system caused both cars to lose a significant amount of points. Team boss Guenther Steiner is gutted with the result and thinks some practice between now and Bahrain might help to solve the problems.
“This weekend was very tense for us – we had some issues in FP1, FP2, we didn’t have a lot of spares, so we didn’t do a lot of pitstop practice, and that could be one of the reasons. It was just a bad pitstop. The wheelnut got on wrong and it was cross-threaded. We couldn’t catch it early enough. You work in a 2.5s window to do this and we were very unlucky. We had on the wheelgun the same guys as last year, which never missed it, so it is one of these things.
We need to work harder on it – more practice. When we get to Bahrain start as quick as possible practice there and the guys can boost their confidence.”
Had the cross-threading happened and on both occasions, the automated release hadn’t shown Magnussen and Grosjean the green light, then they might have both seen the checkered flag. But the pit stop crew were left signalling that there had been an error to no response, both cars released, retired, and the team was fined €10,000 for the unsafe releases.
After the race, Magnussen didn’t want to dwell on it too much and was a bit speechless, but his talking on-track, particularly the overtake and defence against Max Verstappen early on showed a tenacity that could serve him well this season. Grosjean, on the other hand, wore his emotions on his sleeve, slumping over his car before going to find and console the pit crew after the errors were made. The silver lining has to be the in the pace the team showed before disaster struck. Despite the double DNF, other strong midfielders like McLaren and Renault will be sobered by the pace of the American team out of the blocks.
“They need to keep the confidence.This is a freak incident. We need to keep our heads up. We know we have a good year in front of us, we need just to analyse what happened and how can we make it that it doesn’t happen again. It is unbelievable – the same problem at two stops, one on the front wheel, one on the rear wheel, but it happened, it’s real.
“A very disappointing end to the day for us, but the pace was good, the car was running strong – that’s the thing that keeps the spirits up. We go to Bahrain with our heads high and try just to minimise these mistakes on the pit stops.”
The ‘replica Ferrari’ comments are overstated, but it will be interesting to see if the Haas VF-18 carries some Ferrari traits with it to Bahrain. Ferrari’s 2017 car was notoriously happy in warmer conditions. If there has bee a shared philosophy, Haas could find itself in a position to compensate these Melbourne mistakes at the next round.