McLaren have announced the reason for Heikki Kovalainen’s big accident at the recent Spanish Grand Prix. The Woking-based squad, along with their wheel supplier have concluded there was a processing fault in the manufacturing of Kovalainen’s left-front wheel, which eventually failed. The accident saw Heikki skate across the gravel trap and impact a tyre wall at approximately 145mph. Although the impact briefly knocked Heikki out, his only injury was a concussion and earlier today the Finnish driver was given the all clear to race this weekend.
According to McLaren, a clear lacquer coat was applied to the outer-clamp surface, and this caused the wheel to distort and eventually fail.
It has been established that, owing to a process fault during manufacture, the outer clamp surface of the wheel was given a clear lacquer coating. As a consequence of this fault, the clamp load that attached the wheel was not to specification.
In running, the consequent loss of load caused the wheel to fret and distort, leading to its eventual failure.
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and the wheel supplier have now established new procedures designed to prevent a re-occurrence of this issue. McLaren Press Statement.
Initially, some reporters had suggested a link to Lewis Hamilton’s accident at the Nurburgring circuit last year, where the Briton’s wheel essentially fell off. Although Lewis was uninjured in that accident, the impact was quite heavy. However, replays of the footage tended show it was more of a tyre failure on Heikki’s car than a wheel failure. As it turns out, it was the wheel that did fail, but it is not linked to any previous incident.