Then & Now- Unsafe release

On lap 15 of the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix, Mark Webber came into the pits for s new nose having collided with Jean Eric Vergne. The team replaced the nose and fitted four new tyres and sent him on his way. Before long it became apparent that the right rear wheel wasn’t attached securely, and the team asked Webber to drive slowly back to the pits. The wheel came off part way around the lap and Webber was forced to retire. This wasn’t the first time such an incident had occurred, and the FIA guidance was to stop the car, not try and complete the lap. Red Bull were fined €5,000 for an unsafe release.

Six races later, in Germany, once again Red Bull fail to secure a rear wheel on Mark Webber’s car. This time the wheel comes off in the pitlane, hitting a TV cameraman who needed hospital treatment. While the team were able to fit a new wheel allowing Webber to finish in seventh position. Once again the zFIA fined Red Bull for unsafe release (€30,000 this time), but also banned media from the pitlane during the race, required head protection to be worn by anyone working in the pitlane, required two retention devices to be fitted to each wheel and reduced the speed limit to 80km/h for the entire weekend. For 2014 new penalties would apply for unsafe release, a 5 second stop and go, and a ten place grid penalty at the next race. Red Bull on their part redesigned their wheel guns so that the mechanics couldn’t accidentally press to ‘go’ button to indicate that they had finished tightening the wheel.

In the last race, Malaysia 2014, Red Bull brought their Australian driver in for a pit stop and let him go before all the wheels were properly attached. The mechanics on the front left could be seen gesticulating as soon as Daniel Ricciardo left as they new the job hadn’t been completed. One of the team who ran down the pitlane to pull the car back to the pit didn’t wear head protection. Red Bull have again been fined, and their driver had the stop and go penalty and the ten place grid penalty imposed. As these were introduced as a direct result of the team’s actions last season, it does strike me as odd that Christian Horner is describing the penalty as harsh.

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