McLaren fined for Vandoorne unsafe release

A 5,000 Euro fine has been handed down to McLaren for the unsafe release of Stoffel Vandoorne during the second practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Belgium driver stopped on track in the final minutes of the session on Friday afternoon after exiting the pits following a practice pit stop.

Vandoorne conveyed over the team radio that there was a problem with the tyre, before it was was found the right rear wheel was not properly attached.

In the past, Formula 1 teams have typically been slapped with grid penalties for such incidents, but the FIA stewards have given out a financial penalty instead to McLaren in what is now the standard approach.

Part of the reason is that Vandoorne ‘took all appropriate actions at the first available opportunity’ to bring the car to a stop without causing too much of a a hassle for track officials by also parking near a gap in the fence.

A statement from the FIA read: “Consistent with previous decisions of a similar nature, the Stewards decided that the grid place penalty…would not be applied as the driver took all appropriate actions at the first available opportunity.

“Accordingly, the Stewards fined the team €5,000.”

It comes after a recent string in unsafe releases and pit stop mishaps, with Vandoorne’s incident now the fifth instance of a driver having issues with wheels not going on properly following stops this season.

Haas had both of its cars retire from the Australian Grand Prix after blunders during the stops, while in Bahrain, a Ferrari mechanic had to have surgery on his broken leg after a botched pitstop involving Kimi Raikkonen during the race.

Ferrari were hit with a 5o,000 infringement for that incident, however also received a 5,000 Euro fine for a similar unsafe release during practice earlier in the day.

The increase of pit stop dramas has prompted questions whether teams are sacrificing safety in an attempt to improve stops.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene revealed on Friday the Maranello squad uses a three factor process during its stops, similar to that used by every other team in pit lane.

In the case of Raikkonen’s Bahrain incident, Arrivabene said it was the result of a “mishandling of the rear left” as it was “not perfectly read by the electronic device, which gave the green light”.

“We have a procedure to ensure the pitstops during the race are done as safely as possible,” explained Arrivabene.

“In this case we have three factors: human control [the pit crew members], mechanical [the wheel gun] and an electronic device [a sensor to determine a properly attached wheel].

“We went through all the procedure together with the FIA, making sure that this thing doesn’t happen again, and it’s in our interest, because we care about our people, before anything else.”

Formula 1 returns to the Shanghai International Circuit for Practice 3 at 13:00 AEST on Saturday.