Antonio Giovinazzi’s costly pitstop delay under the early safety car in the Spanish Grand Prix was caused by a damaged valve on the front-left tyre of the set the Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team originally planned to send him out on.
The Italian held 15th place during the early stages of the race. When the safety car was deployed after Yuki Tsuonda stopped at Turn 10 with an engine problem, Giovinazzi was called into the pits at the end of lap eight.
The tyre-changer on the front-left corner spotted that the tyre had lost pressure before fitting it to the car just as Giovinazzi pulled into the pitbox.
This tyre was then returned to the garage, with Alfa Romeo then having to remove the rest of the set in order to fit Giovinazzi’s complete alternative set of mediums. This is because sets cannot be mixed and matched in these circumstances.
He was eventually released having lost around 32 seconds in the stop.
Alfa Romeo head of trackside engineering Xevi Pujolar explained that the tyre only lost pressure shortly before the stop thanks to the earlier valve damage that was sustained.
“It was an operational problem when just picking up the set at one point when getting everything ready in the garage that damaged the valve,” said Pujolar.
“We have got a monitoring system and it was OK when the race started, but at some point in the garage it then went wrong – we think a couple of laps before the pitstop.”
Although the team is still investigating the full circumstances regarding the problem, Pujolar said that measures will be implemented to avoid a repeat of this unusual situation.
Alfa had been optimistic that the safety car was well-timed for Giovinazzi’s race given he had two sets of unused medium Pirellis to deploy in the race.
Unfortunately, this problem meant that one of the sets was unusable, which forced Giovinazzi to run a used set of softs in his final stint.
The disadvantage was compounded by Giovinazzi being given a delta to follow on his out-lap, which meant he was unable to catch the pack and took the restart 12s off the back of the field.
Having run to the delta for his entire out-lap, he was only told to push on the run to Turn 4 when the safety car was on its in-lap.
“It is an area we can improve that will not happen [again],” said Pujolar of the damaged valve.
“We should have been able to recover because it was a safety car. If we didn’t have the problem with the dash [showing the delta], I think we were pretty much there at the back of the group.
“We wanted to have the two mediums. With that strategy I think he would have been fighting for the points because he would have been very well positioned.”
Giovinazzi finished 15th as a result of the problems, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen taking 12th place on an ‘inverted’ one stop strategy.
He was the only driver to start on medium tyres, committing to a long first stint given uncertainty over how long the softs would last in the second stint.
He made this strategy work effectively, although having run all the way to lap 37 on his initial tyres Raikkonen inevitably lost time towards the end of that stint and ultimately finished just over six seconds, and two positions, off the points.
“We knew where we needed to get to to achieve a one-stop and it cost a bit of time in the traffic, but from where we were and with the car that we had it was the only way to do it,” said Pujolar.
“It was a bit painful when you have cars coming with a fast pace and overtaking you and you need to stay there because we needed to stretch that stint on the medium to then have a good stint on the soft.
“We knew that we can recover some ground if people on the medium start to have degradation towards the end of the race.”