How Many Pit Stops Are There In Formula 1?

Editorial credit: BoJack / Shutterstock.com

9 seconds! That is the total time that separated Max Verstappen’s and Lewis Hamilton’s time before the final F1 race in Abu Dhabi. During the year, these two titans of F1 racing have raced over a distance of 5,196.6, and before the last race was only 9 seconds apart!

F1 rules require each F1 team to make at least one pitstop per race where the tires are changed to a different compound. If the car experiences damage or mechanical problems, or tires wear at a different rate than predicted, the teams will be forced to make more than one pitstop.

With the tiny margins between winning and losing, F1 teams spend vast amounts of preparation and training time, getting the pitstop time down to sub 3 seconds. In this time, the car has to stop on the marks, and all four tires are changed.

There Is A Minimum Of 1 Pitstop In F1

Pitstops performance has become such art in Formula1 racing that a pitstop that is slightly longer than targeted can make the difference between the team winning and losing.

Apart from pouring rain, Formula 1 rules mandate that each team must use at least two of the three available tire compounds in the main race and must have at least one pitstop when performing the tire change.

The rules also require that only one of each teams’ cars can be worked on at a time.

The teams aim for the car to be stopped for less than 3 seconds.

Teams Sometimes Use Pitstops Strategically

F1 teams try to build in a strategic pitstop advantage, and they do this in three ways.

  • Perform an overcut
  • Perform an undercut
  • Achieve the fastest pit stop time

Perform An Overcut

It is used when it is difficult to overtake. The team which is running behind waits for the front runner to pit and then runs as fast as the existing tires will allow in the hope that when they pit, they have put enough distance between them and the other team that when they come out of the pit lane, they are in front.

By pitting later, the team that has overcut the other hopes that their car’s tires will have more life later in the race, and as the other car is slowing because of tire wear, the team that overcuts can then overtake.

Overcutting is generally used by teams with a speed advantage over the other teams.

Perform An Undercut

This is the opposite of the overcut and involves the undercutting team the possibility that they can overtake the lead by pitting early and racing with newer tires than the competition.

Undercutting is mainly used to try and achieve an advantage in track position, mainly in circuits where it is very difficult to overtake.

Achieve The Fastest Pit Stop Time

Before 2009 F1 pitstops also included the option of refueling the car.

Post-2009, pitstop refueling has been banned.

Up until the Belgium Grand Prix in the 2021 season, F1 teams, particularly Red Bull, achieved incredible quick pit stops.

Red Bull holds the world record for the fastest pitstop. In the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, they managed to jack the car up, replace all four wheels, release the jack, and clear the car to move in 1.82 seconds. Check out the stop in the video below.

The FIA distributed a technical directive for the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix that created a new pit stop rule.

The new rule aimed to eliminate the competitive advantage of a fast pit stop by mandating how quickly different parts of the pitstop can be completed.

Specific actions conducted in the pitstop had to be no quicker than 0.15 seconds.

The rule also regulates the time between the wheel guns being released from the wheels to the traffic light changing to green has to be at least 0.2 seconds.

The purpose behind the new ruling was to try and prevent errors from being made in the previously super quick pitstops. Previously, several incidents occurred when tires were not attached properly and quickly dismounted from the car, causing the real potential of injury.

The rule primarily has affected Red bull which regularly achieved the fastest pitstop times. Teams with the next fastest pitstop times were Mercedes, Aston Martin, and Williams.

What Happens In An F1 Pitstop?

In the 2022 season, it takes 3 seconds to conduct an average pitstop.

A carefully planned and practiced choreography of actions involving more than twenty-three people occurs during this time.  

All of the people carrying out the pitstop are fully trained mechanics who usually work on other jobs for either car, but at pitstop time during the race, they band together and carry out the stops for each car together.

Although approximately only twenty mechanics (plus the driver) work on the car, the rest are responsible for selecting the new tires, keeping them warm and ready to use by the crew who work on the car.

The sequence of events in an atypical pitstop is as follows:

The F1 Driver Stops The Car

The driver brings the car to a stop in exactly the right position. An accurate stop is essential because each member of the crew positions themselves optimally to perform their function.

If the driver stops too early or too late, the team will have to move, which will add microseconds to the stop.

It is crucial that the driver grips the steering wheel very hard and presses the brakes with equal force to ensure that the wheels do not move when they are being worked on.

The Front Jack Man Raises The Car

The front jackman stands in front of the stopping car, which is another reason why the driver must stop accurately, because if he is too late, he may injure the jackman.

The jackman slides the jack under the front of the car and pushes down on the handle, pivoting the car into the air.

Interestingly, if the front jackman is injured or the jack malfunctions, the second person is waiting to take over.

The Gunners Attach The Wheel Guns

As the car comes to a stop, the gunners track the position of the single wheel nut, and as the car comes to a stop, they attach the wheel guns to each of the four wheels.

Some teams use laser-guided wheel guns, which make the attachment more secure.

As soon as the wheel guns are attached, the gunners start to undo the wheel nuts.

The Rear Jackman Raises The Car

Simultaneously, the rear jack man slides the jack under the rear of the car and pivots it just like the front, so the car’s rear is lifted.

The Stabilizer Crew Steady The Car

The car is not laterally stable as it is lifted on only two pivot points.

The job of the two stabilizer crews is to position themselves on opposite sides of the car and hold onto the airbox to prevent it from wobbling on the jacks.

Two Crew Persons Alter The Wing Angle

If the team has decided to change the angle of the front wing, two crew stand on either side of the wing and use specially designed torque wrenches to adjust the angle of the wing.

By making this adjustment, the team can change the amount of downforce of the car.

The Wheel Off Crew Remove The Wheels

With tire temperatures going up to 1500F, the wheel crew must wear very effective heat-resistant gloves.

As soon as the wheel bolts are removed, the wheel crew removes each of the four wheels.

The Wheel On Crew Attach The Wheels

As soon as the wheel off crew has removed the wheels, the wheel on crew set to work.

They held the new tires in the correct position long before the car arrived in the pit.

Using a well-practiced motion, the wheel on crew places the wheels onto the hubs and holds them in position.

The Gunners Tighten The Wheel Nuts

The single wheel nut is pre-attached to the wheel, so as soon as the wheel is in place, the wheel gunners attach the wheel gun and tighten the nut.

When the wheel nut is tightened, they click a button on the machine, which shows they have successfully changed the tire, and the car can move.

The Front And Rear Jackman Lower The Car

When the signal has been given that all four tires are replaced and ready to go, the front and rear jackmen reverse the pivot, and the car is lowered.

The lowering action is quite violent as the car essentially falls to the ground. This triggers another switch to show the car is ready to move.

They immediately stand aside.

The Pitstop Controller Releases The Car

Once the pitstop controller receives all green lights, he checks for oncoming traffic, and as long as it is clear, he turns the traffic light from red to green and releases the car to move back into the pit lane.

The F1 teams aim to take no longer than three seconds for this whole process.

What Else Can Be Done During A Pitstop?

If the F1 car has bodywork damage, the pitstop crew is allowed to replace the broken parts with new pieces.

The most common type of body damage is to the front wing. If the car comes into the pit with a broken front wing, two crew will remove and replace the front wing in parallel to the other actions being performed on the car.

Teams aim to replace a front wing in approximately 10 seconds.

Other fixes may include replacing the steering wheel and adjusting the suspension. If the potential pitstop is going to take too long, the team will abort the race and record a DNF (Did Not Finish) result.

Editorial credit: Abdul Razak Latif / Shutterstock.com

How Do The Teams Work So Well Together?

On average F1 teams spend 10,000 hours practicing for the perfect pitstop.

To put that figure in perspective, teams will carry out over 1,200 test pitstops, only stopping when they are consistently accurate and fast.

The purpose of all the preparation is not to achieve one perfect pit stop but rather to get to the level where the teams can perform consistently fast over every race.

The pitstop crew train as a tea, and each team member is responsible for one function.

Roles within the teams rarely change unless one of the members is absent.

Replacement members are trained, and if a team member isn’t present, they can fulfill the role. However, teams prefer to work with experienced members.

Most F1 teams continue pitstop training for a time each day through the year when they are not at the track.

When the teams get to the track, they repeat the training, ensuring they can operate in a different environment.

This is very important in that not all tracks have the same conditions. Some pit areas are not entirely level, so the Stabiliser Crew has to be on their game.

All pit crew is expected to work out in the gym, emphasizing strengthening core stability and strength while also increasing upper body strength.

The crew must work on their pure strength because the wheel guns, for example, exert 26 bars of pressure on the gunner’s hands.

With the rear tires weighing approximately 14kgs, the strength required for both wheel teams is incredibly high.

Conclusion

F1 rules require each F1 team to conduct at least one pitstop per grand prix race where the tires are changed to a different compound. If the F1 car experiences damage or mechanical problems, or if the tires wear at a different rate than predicted, the F1 teams will be forced to complete more than one pitstop.

Pitstops are as crucial to the outcome of a race as the driver, the car, and the team’s strategy. Get it right, as Red bull regularly does, and the team is set up for a good result while getting it wrong and extending the pitstop time puts the team at a severe disadvantage.

References

https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/insiders-guide-why-are-f1-pit-stops-so-fast/6816459/

https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/pitstop-times-compared-f1-wec-nascar/6686120/

https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.gone-in-1-88s-putting-together-the-perfect-f1-pit-stop.3lLKnEoPKdJgACsUn9IltC.html

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