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.
Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.
The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.
“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.
“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.
“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”
The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.
Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.
Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.
McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.