Ferrari has admitted that simple human error caused Felipe Massa's Singapore Grand Prix to unravel on Sunday night, as the Brazilian was released prematurely from his first pit-stop.
Massa had been leading the race comfortably before the safety car was deployed to cover the clear-up operation after Nelson Piquet Jr's accident and, in the team's haste to turn him around quickly during a mass pit-stop, the green light on its automated release signals was given before the refuelling hose had been disconnected.
Parallels were quickly drawn with a similar incident that saw Massa's team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, leave early from a pit-stop in the European Grand Prix, injuring his refueller, but team principal Stefano Domenicali insists that the two incidents were different, principally because the team was not running a fully-automated system in Singapore.
"Unfortunately, there was
a mistake," Domenicali admitted, "but we were not using the electronic system, it was run manually. When there are a lot of cars coming into the pit in a safety car situation, it is better to have [(the system] working like a lollipop but, instead of a lollipop, you control the green light... Unfortunately, there was a mistake."
Leaving as soon as the green light came on in front of him, Massa not only bowled over members of his pit crew, but also tore the refuelling hose clean out of the tank, trailing it like some silvery snake as he accelerated down the pit-lane.
Fortunately, the Brazilian realised something was amiss and stopped at pit exit rather than rejoining the track, but took some time for his crew to reach him, and longer still to free the nozzle from the car. To make matters worse, the system had also allowed Massa to exit his stall into the path of Force India's Adrian Sutil - ironically the 'victim' during Ferrari's contentious stop in Valencia - earning himself a drive-thru' penalty that compounded the fact that he was already at the back of the field.
The penalty, however, was the least of Domenicali's worries, as the release system continued to prove less reliable than other teams' conventional lollipop systems. Ferrari returned to the more conventional method of controlling its remaining stops in the race.
"We will analyse what we did in the other pit-stops," Domenicali said when asked whether the team would stick to the system for the remainder of the season, "It was a tense moment and, again, a guy was knocked down.
"He's okay, no problem at all, but it's a very tense moment, so we preferred not to use [the electronic system] for the other pit-stops because we wanted to give a sign of less tension.