Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda’s technical director, James Key, said the suspension component that failed on Brendon Hartley’s car during Saturday morning’s free practice session at Silverstone was not a new specification, but the team opted to revert back to an even older spec version on both cars for the rest of the weekend as a precaution.
Hartley was heading down the Wellington Straight and into Brooklands when the left-front suspension failed, putting him into a high-speed spin that ended with the New Zealander in the barriers.
Subsequently, the team pulled team-mate Pierre Gasly into the garage to change his suspension to avoid any kind of repeat, with tests ongoing to see what just caused Hartley’s to fail so spectacularly.
“The component that we had the issue with was not a new spec,” said Key to Motorsport.com. “As precaution we went back to a previous spec of one part, even though it wasn’t associated with the failure that we had.
“The only reason we went back was only as an absolute precaution, let’s take any unknowns away, even though it didn’t appear to be associated with the failure.”
Key said the failure was completely unexpected as they had never experienced such a failure before, and he said the loads being put through the suspension were well within the limits it was designed to cope with.
“It is still being investigated and understood,” admitted Key. “We’ve never had any issues at all, certainly not of that nature. We did nine races without any problems.
“Yes, we had some trackrod damage in Austria, but most people damaged their cars, and we had a particularly horrible thump on one of those kerbs.
“We haven’t seen anything like that, all the loads that were going through the front left suspension were well within the loads that it was designed for. That corner had a history, it had been used the previous day, it had been used in Canada, a big braking track, it had been used in Bahrain.
“It had been serviced and quality control checked, proof-tested, and everything was fine. So it’s rather odd that we suddenly suffered an issue with a part that was perfectly normal, as far as we could see. What we need to establish whether there was some damage to it.”
Key revealed that all the parts have been sent back to their Faenza base for thorough checks to see just what failed and how, and to come up with solutions to ensure it does not happen again.
“They’ve been sent back to the factory, they’ve all been quarantined, they will go through a forensic examination so that we can work out what is impact damage, what is potential failure, clues to how a failure could have occurred, etc,” said Key. “And we have various options to address any possible outcomes.
“We did a race with Pierre for 52 laps without any problems whatsoever, so it feels like a one-off, due to a set of circumstances that we need to understand, although you can never make assumptions like that.
“Brendon was extremely unfortunate, it was obviously nothing to do with him, but it very negatively affected his whole weekend. But he was fine, which is the most important thing, and the car did exactly what it was supposed to do in an impact of that nature.”