Großer Preis der USA 2016, Sonntag

Großer Preis der USA 2016, Sonntag

The Formula One pit stop is widely regarded as a supreme example of world class team work and delivery under pressure. It all started back in the early 1980’s when Gordon Murray, the technical director of the Brabham Formula One team, decided that if they started the race with a small amount of fuel, the car would be so light and fast that they could open up a lead before refuelling, changing the tyres and retaining their advantage. It worked, and the rest is history.

As the result of improvements to technology, processes and training, pit stop times tumbled from 25 seconds to less than 10 and finally a universally acclaimed 6 second stop during the 2000’s. Everything changed in 2010, however, when refuelling was banned in light of the increasing fuel efficiency of Formula One cars. Faced with a mandatory pit stop for tyres only, the top teams seized the opportunity to make another giant step in performance.

Ferrari was the first team to achieve a 3 second stop, and Red Bull Racing responded with a radical new approach to the challenge, setting a new World Record of 1.92 seconds at the United States Grand Prix in 2013. Everyone said that couldn’t be beaten, but in a sport where continuous improvement and marginal gains are the order of the day, everyone knew that more was to come.

Sure enough, at last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, the Williams Formula One team showed everyone the results of their pit stop-improvement project, achieving a world’s-best 1.89 seconds. Driver Felipe Massa was almost caught unawares by the speed of his 22-man crew!

For 2017 the task has been made tougher by larger, heavier tyres and wheels, as well an increased weight of the car to 728kgs.

“There are 32 different tasks to perform during a Formula One pit stop,” says Mark Gallagher, “so the crew is performing them simultaneously, with each task choreographed in such a way as to ensure the required performance, consistency and safety. This year Mercedes estimated that they carried out 400 pit stops in training before the season started, and it’s not uncommon for teams to train every day, including at the factory. Red Bull has built a car specifically for pit stop practice, so that while the race cars are being rebuilt or transported from race to race, the pit crew can continue training.”

“Ultimately everyone knows what they have to do, and the key point is that everyone must perform to the same level. Both accountability and alignment are critical. For that reason wellbeing programmes have become important for the mechanics tasked with carrying out a pit stop. Gone are the days when mechanics lived on burgers and sugary drinks; now it all about having the right amount of sleep, nutrition and physical conditioning.”

And the next goal?

“We have seen 1.7 seconds during training, so we know that it’s possible if everyone is calm, focused and correctly synchronised. That’s the next step, so watch this space. The goal is perfect execution, every time.”