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

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The 'blonde American' that could have saved Mercedes' race
By:
Co-author: Oleg Karpov

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.

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.

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About this article

Series Formula 1
Teams AlphaTauri
Author Jonathan Noble