The sport that deals with time and speed originated with the European Grand Prix Motor Racing of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1950, the F1 World Championship was founded and the Federation Internationale de I’Automobile (FIA) has been the governing body of Formula One since then.
In Formula One, the speed of an F1 car is limited to approximately 375 km/h (235 mph). Time is the only thing that has no limitation in an F1, yet it acts as the winner-deciding factor in Formula One. Depending on the circuit, the number of pit stops varies. The fastest the pit stop, the fastest the race!
What Does an F1 Pit Stop Mean?
What are F1 pit stops? They are the exciting features of a Grand Prix that decide the win-loss strategy of a race. The pit stops and the pit crews are the two main deciding factors of a race, as a stop of a few seconds can give the chase a lead of a few hundred meters. A pit stop is something where an F1 car stops in the pit lane in the midst of a race for quick maintenance.
The quick aid involves a change of tires, mechanical repairs or adjustments and many other actions necessary during the race. A separate pit lane is maintained for the pit stops and one can find the pits running parallel to the start/finish line which gets connected to the main track in a shorter distance.
What does an F1 Pit Crew Do?
The pit crew stays alert with the necessary equipment when the car enters the pit lane and are ready to perform every required action. The work is done at the earliest, in just a few seconds and the car resumes the race. The actions are done in these few second include change of tires, mechanical repairs, adjustments to the wings and many more.
The number of pit stops and the right time to pit stop, which tires to be used must be planned and confirmed prior to the race by the team based on the circuit. The driver and the pit crew need to be sure of the lap in which the pit stop has to be taken because releasing a car from the pits into a fleet of slower cars will only cost time and in F1 even a millisecond can change the fate of the race.
How Do F1 Pit Stops Work?
In general, a pit crew is made of about 20 members who are trained and well-coordinated when an F1 car enters the pit lane. Each crew member has a specific role assigned to him that has to be performed in as short a time as possible such as changing a set of tires, adjusting the front and rear wing, and any other needed repair actions.
As soon as the car visits the pit, all of the four tires are changed, the wings are adjusted, any mechanical issue faced is fixed and the driver’s helmet visor is cleaned over a very short period of time.
How Many Pit Crew Members in F1?
Formula one is widely considered a team sport and the pit stops are the visual evidence of it. Though the driver of the race grabs the overall attention of the crowd, the pit crew members remain as the unsung heroes. Usually, a pit crew has nearly 20 people.
The work assigned to the pit crew is as follow:
- 4 of the pit crew members change the tires, one for each wheel of the car from taking out the car’s single locking lug nut from each tire then setting it back on the new tire.
- 8 members carry the tire to the pit lane, two for each wheel of the car. One of them removes the old tire and one replaces the new tire in place.
- 2 stabilizers are assigned to stabilize the car on each side at the middle of the car.
- When a car enters the pit lane, 2 men are needed to first lift the car and then permit the changing of tires. They are the front and rear jackmen.
- There is a man standing with a fire extinguisher held in his hand ready to put out any fires that may occur during a stop. More than one man may perform this action if necessary.
- If needed, the front wingmen will step in to adjust the front wing angle and/or change the entire front wing.
What Happened to Pit Stop Refueling?
Refueling the cars were allowed between 1994 and 2009 season, during which the same number of pit crew members were involved and the ultimate aim was to fix the issues as quickly as possible. The pit stop time lasted for 6 to 12 seconds which depended on how much fuel is needed by the car to finish the race.
If the issue was even more intense, such as a fuel pump failing or the engine stalling, it would take much longer. The cars were fuelled at 12 liters per second. Since the car’s weight was an important factor that contributed to a driver’s victory, teams varied the amount of fuel loaded into a car at any given stop.
With the refueling, the pit stop count also increased. Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher took multiple pit stops at the 2004 French Grand Prix who eventually won the race. Refueling was banned in 2010 and since then there has been no refueling in the midst of the race with a minimum of 2 pit stops.
Is a Pit Stop Mandatory in F1?
With the invention of the new design of tires in 2017 that did not degrade that easily, most of the races followed a one-stop strategy. Minimum 1 pit stop is needed in order to avoid the wearing-off of the tires and some circuits demand more than one pit stop.
But if there is a second mandatory pit stop, then there is a high risk to have all the cars stopping in the same lap. If the strategy is defined in the rules, then the sport becomes less interesting and there are chances that everybody will stop at the same time.
How Many Pit Stops Are Allowed in F1?
Generally, depending on the circuit, 1 to 4 pit stops can be taken by an F1 car. There are two main factors that are taken into consideration when more than 1 pit stops are taken, the track and the weather condition. Apart from these factors, if there is a sudden mechanical problem, there may be many pit stops which can affect the driver’s chance of success.
In order to avoid the delay, the pit crews undergo intense training to get the work done as quickly as possible. The fastest F1 pit stop is recorded as 1.92seconds at the 2013 USA Grand Prix – Red Bull F1 team.
F1 Pit Stop Times Over the Years
In 1950, the F1 World championship was founded during which pit stops were not well organized. Over the years, as the sport became popular and more professional, advancements were seen in the F1 cars and the pit-stops became essential. During the 1970s, the pit stops took more time and were often chaotic especially when there was an unscheduled stop.
As the F1 rules for the pit stops came in with the permission to refuel the cars in the midst of the race in 1994, the pit stops slightly speeded up. With the in-race refueling banned, the driver’s enter and exit of the pits have become breathtakingly fast. With the advancements, the pit stops became faster and a recent record of 1.92 seconds has been set.
We have shared a video below that shows the evolving of the pit stops since 1950. Check it out.
Fastest F1 Pit Stop Ever
The first season that was conducted after the banning of refueling was in 2010 which saw an average pit stop of 4 seconds. In 2011, team Mercedes brought it down to 3.4s in 2011. This was again overcome by team McLaren to 2.32s in 2012.
Team Red Bull set another record of 2.05 at the start of 2013 and went on to break the two-second barrier at the end of the season. They set the unbeatable record so far of 1.92 seconds by aiding Mark Webber at the 2013 United States Grand Prix.
After the inaugural of DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award in 2015, for the first time, Red Bull won the 2018 DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award. The same 1.92 seconds record was set by Felipe Massa for Williams in 2016, which still remains the fastest pit stop ever.
Check out the fastest pit stop record set by Williams at the European Grand Prix in 2016.
Since the inauguration of the DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award, 4 different teams have received the award. The teams to receive the award are;
- 2015 – Ferrari
- 2016 – Williams
- 2017 – Mercedes
- 2018 – Red Bull