The 'blonde American' that could have saved Mercedes' race

AlphaTauri has revealed it has a special automated voice system – nicknamed the 'blonde American' - to ensure it doesn't make the gaffe that Mercedes made in the Italian Grand Prix.

The 'blonde American' that could have saved Mercedes' race

At Monza last weekend, Lewis Hamilton's hopes of victory were dashed when he was handed a 10-second stop-go penalty for entering the pitlane when it was closed.

Hamilton admitted that he had not seen the flashing light signals warning him that the pitlane was shut, while the Mercedes team said it did not spot warning messages put on the FIA screens.

That blunder opened the way for AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly to take his maiden Formula 1 victory.

Reflecting on the circumstances surrounding that crucial pitstop error, AlphaTauri team manager Graham Watson has revealed that he put in place a special voice system at his team several years ago to avoid his outfit ever making the mistake Mercedes did.

In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com revealing the inside story of AlphaTauri's victory, Watson explains who his team's idea ensures that no messages from the FIA are missed.

"I guess Mercedes don't have anything similar, because otherwise they would have known," he said. "But on our pit wall about three years ago I instigated a computerised voice-over on all messages from the FIA.

"So when the FIA – that message comes up on page three – says 'pitlane is closed', I get a computer-generated voice telling me. It is a woman, I call her the blonde American, because of the accent. She was saying 'pitlane is closed'.

"Engineers were saying we could bring Daniil [Kvyat] under the safety car, and I started screaming 'no, don't come in, don't come in, don't come in'. And they all looked at me, and I said 'the pit entry is closed, the pit entry is closed'.

"So we stayed there. But then I saw Hamilton coming in. I was like 'have I f*****d up, as sporting director, have I made a massive mistake here?' Because a team like Mercedes don't make these sorts of errors.

"And then I looked at the screen again. 'No, no, 100% guys, don't come in. You've got to stay out'."

Mercedes said in the wake of its Italian Grand Prix mistake that it would be looking at making changes to its pitlane software to ensure it does not miss similar messages in the future.

shares
comments

Related video

Why Vettel is key to turning Aston into a success story
Previous article

Why Vettel is key to turning Aston into a success story

Next article

The car changes that have helped McLaren shine in 2020

The car changes that have helped McLaren shine in 2020
Load comments
How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison Prime

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells Stuart Codling about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Prime

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as Ben Anderson discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren Prime

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren

From being lapped by his own teammate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Prime

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing wind tunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher Prime

The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles as a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021
Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay Prime

Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay

OPINION: Quibbles over the length of time taken by Formula 1's stewards over decisions are entirely valid. But however inconvenient it is, there can be no questioning the importance of having clearly defined rules that everyone understands and can stick to. Recent events have shown that ambiguity could have big consequences

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax Prime

The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax

OPINION: Red Bull has had Formula 1’s fastest package for most of 2021, but in several of the title run-in events it has wasted the RB16B’s potential. It cannot afford to do so again with Lewis Hamilton motoring back towards Max Verstappen in the drivers’ standings with two rounds remaining

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings

Qatar was a virtual unknown for most as Formula 1 made its inaugural visit to the Gulf state, and tyre management quickly emerged as an even more critical factor than normal. Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that two of the championship's elder statesmen produced standout drives

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2021