Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas looked destined for a podium finish at the glamorous Monaco Grand Prix before his race abruptly ended in cruel circumstances.
The Finnish star qualified third after a blistering session on Saturday, and was elevated an extra place on the grid when pole-sitter Charles Leclerc was forced to withdraw from the event due to problems with his gearbox.
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Bottas started the race impeccably, comfortably cruising behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen before heading into the pits on Lap 31 — at which point, disaster struck.
In baffling scenes, the Mercedes pit crew were unable to remove the front right tyre of Bottas’ car with the wheel guns.
“Someone needs to get a big hammer and try and give it a shunt, because at the moment, that tyre is not budging,” David Croft said in commentary for Sky Sports.
“This is Valtteri Bottas’ race being ruined in front of your very eyes.”
Due to a damaged wheel nut, none of the team mechanics were able to switch out the tyre, forcing Bottas into a shock retirement.
“The nut was damaged to the point where it was never going to come off, so we had no option but to park the car,” Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin later explained.
A disaster for Valtteri. 💔 The wheel nut machined onto the axle as we attempted the pit stop, meaning the wheel cannot be changed.
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) May 23, 2021
Bottas said: “I couldn’t believe what happened and still feels strange that the others are racing there and I’m here.
“But you know, it happened and it’s a big mistake by us as a team that we need to learn from.
“Whether it’s human error or technical issue, it doesn’t matter; we need to find the issue and if it’s a human error we need to support the guy who did it. We need to learn from this.
That’s the main thing in my mind and at the same time, yes, super disappointed.
“I think I’ve never had it where the race is over because of that. So big, big learning needs to happen from this day.”
Verstappen ultimately clinched his second victory of the season, while Mercedes superstar Lewis Hamilton finished seventh after an underwhelming performance.
The result had significant ramifications on the F1 ladder — Red Bull now leads the Constructors’ Championship by one point, while Verstappen sits four points ahead of Hamilton in the Drivers’ Standings.
Bottas meanwhile slips down to fourth on the ladder, with McLaren’s Lando Norris sliding into the top three after crossing the line third in Monaco.
Originally published as Star stranded by barely-believable mishap