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Stake F1 Team

Exclusive: Stake unveil fresh solution after 'massive drama' early season

Stake encountered horrific pit-stop issues in the first three races but a new solution has been unveiled at Imola.

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Stake technical director James Key has confirmed the team is running new parts this weekend he hopes is a definitive solution to the pit-stop drama it endured in the opening grands prix of this season.

In Bahrain, Valtteri Bottas endured a painfully slow stop that compromised his hope of points. At the following race in Saudi Arabia, it was team-mate Zhou Guanyu's turn to experience race-defining issues during what should have been a routine stop. A further problem occurred in Australia for both drivers, although not as severe as those in the first two races.

Racing director Xevi Pujolar revealed after the race in Melbourne that the problem lay "in the hardware", in particular "the hub and wheel nut.

For the first time, Key has offered a full explanation as to what unfolded. Speaking in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365, he said: "To be honest, it was an issue that was totally unexpected, which hit us for the first time in Bahrain.

"We knew we had a few fragilities around so we were already looking at introducing complete new designs just because R&D had hinted that you can get something wrong if you do certain things, but the statistics were very low.

"So in the R&D department, together with the pit crew, it was generally pretty stable. But then the first two races of the year you get it twice and you think, 'What the hell's going on?'

"Basically, the issue was cross threading wheel nuts, which aluminium wheel nuts - which is what we had before - can do if something's not quite clean with the stop.

"So if you've a misalignment with a wheel, or a misalignment of the nut to the thread, normally it will pull itself on. In fact, in R&D, when you really abuse it, it always pulls itself on.

"For whatever reason, on the track in a live environment, it seemed to be more fragile. So it was a big surprise, it really caught us out.

"We did have an alternative design on its way anyway. I asked them to start that in November, but obviously that was at a peak design time to get the car out, so it's not something everyone could rush on to."

Despite confirming new parts were introduced for the Australian GP, there were still issues, albeit Key says for "totally different" reasons.

"One was loom damage, which caused a control systems issue, but it revealed itself at a pit stop, so it became a pit-stop issue," said Key.

"And the other one was a weird combination of getting the wheel stuck on the hub because of a certain combination of things happening, which is extremely rare, but just happened to hit us at a pit stop as well.

"So there was a lot of frustration in unfortunate conditions, but also a weakness that really revealed itself."

Further new parts were applied for the Japanese Grand Prix, as well as the pit crews being asked "to take a little bit more time, a bit more finesse, to try and get things together," according to Key.

For this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the concern of a further problem materialising has now hopefully been eradicated.

"We've actually introduced some new parts here, which are different materials with a totally fresh design, and so far - fingers crossed - it's been okay," said Key.

Confirming a steel tie component, he added: "Most of the pit lane has steel tie, a solution I've experienced which is more robust because it's heavier, and definitely protects against some of the damage you can cause to a steel aluminium or a tie aluminium combination.

"With these new parts we can be a little bit quicker without risking any damage, so we've actually recovered within about three or four races.

"But it's such a big topic which cost us performance and the potential for points as well in the year. It was a massive drama we didn't expect so very, very frustrating for all concerned."

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