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Formula 1 Emilia Romagna GP

Why Albon wasn't penalised for driving with "10mm" loose wheel in Imola GP

Alex Albon believes his loose wheel in Formula 1's 2024 Imola event "was quite safe", with the stewards not penalising his driving back to the pits following a post-race investigation.

Alex Albon, Williams FW46, comes in for a pit stop

The Williams driver stopped on lap eight from running 14th early on in Sunday's race, but when he returned to the track he slowed down after traversing the Tamburello chicane where he spotted the extent of the problem.

Albon then toured slowly back to the pits to switch to a new set of tyres and rejoined the race one lap down.

He was then slapped with a 10s stop/go penalty for violating Article 34.14d of F1's sporting rules that govern teams releasing cars in an unsafe condition during a race. This effectively ended his race as he went two laps down and Albon was withdrawn with 10 laps to go.

"I didn't feel it coming down the pits, but as soon as I took the pit limiter off there was like a vibration and I could tell something was wrong," Albon told reporters after the race at Imola that was won by Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

When asked if he had felt it was safe to drive back with the loose wheel, Albon confirmed this was the case because he could see it was "still attached".

"When I was turning around corners you could see if the tyre was gonna fall off," he added. "But it would only go to a point and stop. I could see it was quite safe. There was only about 10mm of movement on the tyre."

Albon also said in a Williams press release that "I understand why I got the penalty", while he escaped sanction for continuing on with the loose wheel. This is usually a breach of Article 34.14.e of F1's sporting rules.

But the Imola stewards accepted Albon's explanation of the incident, which they said was "supported by in-car video".

"While he knew something was wrong with the car, it did not look from his position to be a classic loose wheel not captured by the wheel nut," the stewards' document announcing the result of the second investigation into Albon's actions added.

"He was shown the green light by the team to exit the pits, and the team did not call him as they did not know at the time that the wheel was loose.

"Rather, Albon heard a metallic scraping noise, reported that something was wrong and drove the car carefully to the pits.

"The stewards agreed that this was accomplished in a safe and appropriate manner, without affecting any other competitor and that the driver did not drive the car knowing it to be in an unsafe condition."

Williams has so far not explained what happened to Albon's right front wheel at his first service, with team sporting director Sven Smeets saying only in the same press release that "Alex's race was over after a problem in his first pitstop with the right front wheel".

Albon did complete 43 more laps after getting back to the pits to get a fully secured set of wheels, which Smeets said was "learning for next year and decided to retire him before the end of the race".

Albon said of this: "We were just trying some stuff – trying to figure out some of our braking feeling with the car and just trying to see if there were any solutions on a long run with the car we've got.

"With the wind and just with the kind of rearwards… just playing around with the brakes. It was OK. Just driving around experimenting."

Additional reporting by Sam Hall

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