Jean-Eric Vergne has been given a 10 place grid penalty for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix after his wheel broke free from his car at the end of the second practice session in Barcelona today.
The Toro Rosso driver was released from the pits with five minutes remaining, but the team failed to properly attach the left rear tire onto the STR9 car. As he came through the opening complex of corners, it came free and bounced through the gravel. Thankfully, it did not make any contact with another car and was eventually recovered by a marshal.
The FIA has taken a zero tolerance approach to loose wheels ever since the 2013 German Grand Prix, where a cameraman was struck by an errant wheel in the pit lane during the race. Thankfully, he escaped unharmed, but a precedent has now been set.
Daniel Ricciardo was the last driver to be handed a penalty, receiving a 10 place grid drop for the Bahrain Grand Prix after the team released him without properly attaching the tire on his car.
Toro Rosso has also been fined €30,000 by the FIA for the unsafe release.
Although it may seem like a harsh penalty for a minor error, bouncing wheels can be very dangerous. F2 racer Henry Surtees died back in 2009 after a wheel came loose from another car and struck his head.
With safety being so important, this penalty will hopefully ensure that a little more care is taken by the teams during pit stops.