A spectacular mechanical failure during today’s Formula 1 (F1) practice session caused both wheels to fly off Sebastien Buemi’s Torro Rosso STR6.
The accident happened when the team’s Swiss driver applied the brakes at the end of the back main straight while travelling at 190mph (306kph) on the Shanghai International circuit.
The upright, which connects to the wheel, broke on the front right side of the car and the front left upright buckled shortly after. Buemi subsequently veered off the track and into the gravel while one wheel hurtled over the safety fence.
He said: ‘There’s not much to say about what happened in FP1. I braked, the wheels came off and that was it.
‘Physically, I was fine though. But I have to say, I am extremely disappointed that, once again, through no fault of my own, I have been unable to run for almost all of the three hours available.’
Typically, the front upright in an F1 car is made of a metal matrix composite consisting of 25 per cent silicon carbide ceramic and 75 per cent aluminium. The material allows the component to be very light, but also makes it very stiff.
Jon Hilton, a former F1 technical director at Renault, said: ‘I don’t expect it was a machining problem; it’s probably just that they were pushing to reduce the weight as far as they can and they’ve gone just a little too far.’
Hilton believes that F1 regulations should allow for more testing of new components before they make it into the practice sessions.
‘With F1, you have to keep pushing the development of the car,’ he said. ’But over the last couple of years, regulations have greatly restricted testing and that certainly makes it difficult for the teams to introduce new things.’
As a precaution, Torro Rosso pulled its other driver, Jaime Alguersuari, from the first practice. However, Alguersuari ran in the second session, where he posted the eighth-fastest lap time.