When you have just tried to brake from 312kmh (193mph) at the end of a very long straight it is not the most propitious time to discover that both front wheels have flown off your car.
That was the remarkable and nerve-jangling experience that befell Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi in practice in Shanghai yesterday, when his Toro Rosso hit a bad bump and sank onto its belly as both wheels sheared away from their structure and flew into the grandstands.
Nobody in Formula One could remember seeing anything quite as stunning and dramatic. "There's not much to say about what happened," Buemi said, exuding the typical calmness of a driver, post-crisis. "There was no warning. I went down the back straight and hit my maximum speed, some way over 300kmh, and then when I came into the braking zone for turn 14 and applied the brakes, both wheels suddenly came off and that was it.
"The moment the wheels detached themselves I became a passenger, but fortunately the car slid along on its belly and the subsequent collision with the wall was not a significant impact. Physically, I was absolutely fine. But I am extremely disappointed that, again, through no fault of my own, I have been unable to run for almost all of the three hours of practice."
Such are a racing driver's instincts that Buemi was still trying to correct his errant car via the steering wheel, even though it was no longer attached to anything that could control its direction. Toro Rosso blamed the accident on the failure of the right front upright, a new design. As that failed, all of the heavy loading from braking and the bump in the braking zone was transferred across the car to the left-hand unit, which failed simultaneously. The wheel tethers failed to do their job because they are attached directly to the uprights.Reuse content