The 5 Seconds That Destroyed Schumachers Race
So, Mercedes are celebrating their first win since returning to the sport as a constructor and what a dominant win it was. Rosberg piloted his car perfectly and never looked like finishing anywhere other than 1st. It’s easy to forget that whilst this was a great result for the under pressure German team, things could have been so much better were it not for a small mistake that destroyed Schumachers race and in turn, a One – Two finish for AMG Mercedes.
I want to look a bit more closely at this mistake, and try to explain how, in a sport as big as this and with all the money they spend, it is still possible for a team to release a car from his pit stop without a wheel nut!
To explain this I will ask you to use your imagination for a while. Put yourself in the position of the Lollipop man in charge of the pit stop. On paper your job is simple, guide your driver into his box, wait until all the work on his car has been carried out, then safely release him back onto the track….. simple.
Unfortunately it is not quite so simple, the whole team is under a huge amount of pressure and that pressure is doubled when you’re at the front of the pack. People have been asking a lot of questions as to Mercedes commitment and motivation of late, coupled with having two extremely talented drivers who have so far only scored 1 point, meant every single second counts!
All these thoughts are rushing through your head as you stand in the Chinese pit lane preparing to get to work. The call comes over the radio that Schumacher is coming in and you jump into action. As he crawls down the pit lane under restricted speed you guide him into his correct spot. The slowest and most important 5 seconds of your whole weekend are about to start.
Second 1 – The car stops and you run around to the front, placing your lollipop in the eye line of the driver as the car gets lifted off the ground.
Second 2 – The four gun men release the nuts off the wheels as a second mechanic removes them from the car. At this point you are looking up and down the pit lane, trying to predict the traffic and where your driver can safely be released.
Second 3 – The new wheels and tyres are placed on the car by another mechanic, all is going well, you look around your crew, everyone is in place and the lane is clear ready for a quick release.
Second 4 – The gun men tighten the new wheels onto the car and step back raising their arms to signal a successful fitting as the car is dropped to the floor. Well, that’s the plan anyway. This is all happening in your peripheral vision as you make all your checks and ready yourself to give the all clear to the driver.
Your heart rate is massively increased as the adrenaline kicks in, all the pressure and hard work of the whole weekend has come to this. Your eyes have to be in about ten places all at once, but unfortunately in the heat of the moment they don’t catch the front wheel gun man having trouble. For some reason the wheel nut did not secure onto the car and he moves back to change his gun or find a replacement part.
Second 5 – The Mercedes is dropped to the ground, and in a blink of an eye, noticing all the mechanics away from the car and an empty pit lane you release your driver. Schumacher tears out of the box and in his tyre smoke you notice a lone mechanic banging his fist to the floor, wheel nut and gun in hand. Your heart sinks as you realise what this means and you rush back in to the garage just in time to see your driver pulling off the track to retire from an almost certain second place, and a result that would have been Schumachers best since his comeback over two years ago.
As a side note,
It was a pleasant breath of fresh air to hear a driver not throwing his toys out of the pram when asked about his problems, and simply pointing out that these things happen. Human error is part of every sport and a driver who comes to terms with that is a driver who can concentrate on moving forwards.
It was great to see Schumacher looking genuinely happy for his team mate.
I’m looking forward to a great year from AMG Mercedes in 2012… Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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