Mercedes explains faults within the radio system that led to chaos within the pit cease on the Sakhir GP
Russell had led much of the race on the outside loop of Bahrain, but everything went wrong during a late stage safety car triggered after Jack Aitken spun and hit the barriers on the final corner.
Mercedes called both Russell and teammate Valtteri Bottas to switch to medium tires, but the wrong tires were fitted amid confused news to the pit crew.
The two front tires on Russell’s car came from Bottas’ set, which forced the young Brit to pit a lap later to fit his correct tires.
PLUS: The invisible mistake that almost cost Perez victory in Russell’s race
Mercedes attributed the bug to a problem with the team radio system, and it later emerged that the problem revolved around how messages from drivers and the pit wall are prioritized.
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes trackside technical director, said the confusion was caused by various conversations broadcast when the team and driver spoke at the same time.
“We didn’t have enough time to get an absolute and thorough understanding of what was going on, but we found a smoking weapon,” he said.
“It has to do with how the radio system prioritizes messages. If, for example, Ron [Meadows, sporting director] calls the crews and gets them to prepare the tires for the two drivers, there was a series of broadcasts on the radio system at the time.
“The system knows the importance of prioritizing Ron’s messages because the most important thing is that the tires are there: more than what a driver is saying or whatever anyone else on the crew is saying.
“But it looks like there will be a time when the system decides to let the prioritized message through and we missed an important part of the broadcast.
“”[This meant] This half of the tire collectors did not get the message. And it looks like half of them did. That’s why the cars come and all the tires in the pit lane aren’t ready yet. “
Shovlin said it was enough to only have half of the pit crew without knowing which tires needed to be fitted to trigger the chaotic scenes, as Russell was first sent out with the wrong front tires and Bottas then had to retrofit his old set because he did not.No new ones are available.
“Obviously it looks like we don’t really understand what we are doing, but the problem is all due to this kind of reason where we lost a key message at an important point,” he added.
“There was very little time between the safety car and George pitting. We just have to go through all the logs of everything to see how it works.
“And once we have a full understanding of this and have filled in some of the gaps that we are currently unsure of, we can start looking for a solution for the next race in Abu Dhabi.”
Shovlin said the previously invisible problem with the radio could have arisen at any time, but it was unfortunate for Russell that it came at a crucial time.
“This is something that could have got us in the last three years. And it could have got us in the first race next year.”
“So it’s something that was in the system. And it was terribly unhappy for the drivers and extremely unhappy for George that we found it.”