Chicago Update: Knaus explains slow stop for Johnson

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Jimmie Johnson has been one of the stronger cars so far during today’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, which is currently under a red flag for rain at Lap 110. However, he hit a bit of a snag earlier on during a green flag stop, his second of the day, at Lap 75.

An already slow stop was made even slower after an official reported that a lug nut was loose on Johnson’s right-rear tire. That led to some frantic moments among the 48 crew before Johnson was able to get on his way.

Johnson fell from the lead to fifth, and had moved up to fourth behind race leader Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano when rain forced the yellow at Lap 107. Three laps later, the red was brought out.

ESPN caught up with Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus (pictured, right, with Johnson), who explained the incident on pit road.

“There was one hanging there,” Knaus said. “One had fallen off during the hand-in so it was kind of hanging there. But the tire changer had taken the time – he did his job, did a great job – of getting the other lug nut on there and making sure it was tight. The official thought there were only four on there.

“We all make mistakes. That happens from time to time. Hopefully, we can get the Lowe’s Chevrolet back towards the front and get up there and compete for the win.”

Johnson tried to keep his cool during the long stop, but also admitted to ESPN that he “could see confusion.”

“I saw an official waving, I saw my rear tire changer done and at the wall arguing with Chad, telling him that the lugs were on,” he said. “In the end, I guess the official thought all the lugs weren’t on the right rear and that was where there was a conversation and an argument.

“Chad didn’t want me to leave the box without the lugs on and get a penalty, and on and on it went. Long story short, I sat there on pit road while the clock was ticking…[We] certainly lost track position, but I think we’ve got the car to get back up there. We just need to get this place to dry out, get my Lowe’s Chevy back on the road, and we’ll be in good shape.”

First thing’s first, though, and, to borrow Johnson’s line, that’s getting the place to dry out. We’ll see how long it takes.

Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.