one, two and done
performance areas and, as Smedley
stresses, none of the three can ever be
neglected, or looked at in isolation. The
optimum pit stop is a complex matrix of
all three working with and off each other.
While the functions of the equipment
used are not new, teams have found
ingenious ways to customize the designs
to minimize time spent in the pits.
With automated and onboard jacks
outlawed, they must be manually
operated. While the rear jack is relatively
simple, allowing the jack man to move in
behind the car, lift it and then use the
quick-release mechanism to drop it, the
front is not so simple. A swivel-jack allows
the jackman to get out of the way of the
car before, not after, he releases the car.
Then, he simply drops the car and yanks
the jack towards him to leave the way
clear, saving several tenths of a second.
Retained wheel nuts, pioneered in the
DTM but brought into F1 by Mercedes,
are believed to be worth a half second.
Rather than the wheel nut being a loose
item, running the risk of it being dropped
or shot out of the gun, these are
integrated into the wheel rim. Combined
with sleeves on the wheel gun that allow
it to locate easy, these allow wheel nuts to
be gunned off and on incredibly quickly,
especially with some cars only having
three turns of thread on the axle. Watch a
gunman closely, and they will locate the
gun before the car has stopped.
Traffic light systems were pioneered by
Ferrari in 2008, but have proliferated
since refueling was banned. This
eliminates the need for a crew member to
hold and release the driver using a
lollipop. But the system is not completely
automated. There are torque sensors in
the wheel guns, but this data cannot be
used in real time, so only the release of a
button on each wheel gun can indicate
that the change is complete. A crew
member monitoring traffic can delay the
lights changing should another car be
passing, so this system is a blend of the
electronic and the manual.
With the exception of the wheel guns,
which are supplied by specialist
companies such as Italy’s Dino Paoli, this
equipment is generally designed and
produced in-house by each team.
Unlike the fly-in specialists used by many
NASCAR teams, the 20 or so people who
perform the pit stop are all taken from
the race team – they have to be, given
that F1 rules limits each team to 60
operational personnel (i.e., people actually
involved with any aspect of running the
cars) at a grand prix. But so specialized
has being on the pit crew become that
their fitness levels are monitored closely,
training regimes issued and performance
closely scrutinized. In each team, an
individual or group is tasked with
analyzing human performance in pit
stops and able to make suggested
changes to technique. To perform under
intense pressure, often in very high
temperatures, all-around fitness, as well
as upper-body strength, is required.
second stop over a season.
But can times drop even further?
Wheel guns top out at a little over
2,500rpm and cannot be made
significantly quicker because of a
2012 rule mandating the use of
compressed nitrogen or air, rather
than lighter gases such as helium.
“The guns are getting toward
the limit of their design capability,”
says Smedley. “Maybe the next
stage is a completely different gun
design. Or a different take on how
we take off and put on the wheel,
because it doesn’t have to be a
gun. All ideas are welcome!”
FASTEST EVER, BUT...
...incredible as it was, Red Bull Racing’s
1.923sec pit stop at the 2013 U.S. Grand
Prix only helped Mark Webber finish third.
After stints at
Jordan Grand Prix
and Williams F1,
McLaren in late
director in ’ 12,
to optimize and
enhance all areas
TOP) From the
stop-go lights in
the driver’s line of
sight, to the glare-reducing visors on
the crew’s helmets,
to the positioning
arrows on the swivel
jacks, and even the
stance of the
crew in the final
their car enters the
pit box, attention to
detail is everything
in the quest to find
increments of time.