Three separate incidents during the Spanish Grand Prix – while seemingly unrelated – are giving rise to speculation that errant gravel trap stones caused problems for drivers.
Within sight of the chequered flag and well-earned second place finish, Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren suffered a sudden failure at the left-front of the car, launching him into the Turn 3 barriers and straight into retirement.
While the wreck of his MP4-25 is being sent back to the team’s Woking HQ for further investigation as to the cause of the failure, team boss Martin Whitmarsh speculated that “debris” was the likely culprit, and Bridgestone gave this further credence by stating that its initial impression was that "this was not caused by a tyre issue.
"We are working closely with McLaren to understand what happened," added Bridgestone’s Hirohide Hamashima.
After qualifying, Rubens Barrichello took photos of his Williams FW32 and his helmet with his mobile phone camera, citing the apparent damage to both that he attributed to flying stones.
After the race, he told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport that he had to nurse his car to the finish line after feeling what he described as “a strong shock” to the left front of his car, which he attributed to a stone getting lodged in the wheel rim.
"We had to slow him down to ensure we didn’t have a problem with the tyres," Williams Technical Director, Sam Michael, said. "We’ll be looking into that for the next race."
A near-identical issue is believed to have caused Sebastian Vettel’s braking issues he started to experience later in the race, and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner confirmed that the brake disc “was a bit damaged”.
Interesting theories that would certainly explain a few things!