Is Ferrari's Traffic Light System Safe?

Billy Sexton@@billysextonAnalyst ISeptember 29, 2008

Stefano Domenicali described the Singapore Grand Prix a 'black day' for Ferrari.


All was going well for them at the start of the race. Massa had pulled out a comfortable lead on championship rival Lewis Hamilton, and Kimi Raikkonen was performing well in his new assisting role, catching Hamilton and threatening to overtake the Brit.


But just as the pit stop window opened for the average two stoppers, Piquet put his Renault into the wall and the safety car was deployed.


As a Hamilton fan I was feeling two emotions: hope and fear. Hope because Hamilton would get back on the tail of Massa and might be able to challenge him. Fear that the Iceman was going to get past Lewis no matter what.



Ready... Action!


The pit lane was declared open by race control and Massa and Hamilton went in for the first of their two stoppers. If my man was going to do the Brazilian, it was going to be now.


The timers came up at the bottom of my television screen as the camera was focusing on Massa. Then came the James Allen scream, "Oh! It's an error from Massa!"


I saw that he had driven off with the fuel hose, but was this allowed? Wasn't it unsafe? A reply was then shown and we all saw what happened. Massa saw the green light and went; all three buttons had been pressed by the Ferrari mechanics, one of which was injured. I was pleased to hear that he was not seriously injured in any way.


Massa had pulled up at the pit lane exit whilst the Ferrari Athletics Championship took place down the pit lane, as six mechanics rushed to get the fuel hose out of the No. 2 car. A dream weekend had just turned into the worst nightmare.


Massa's unsafe release from the pit box also gave him a drive through penalty, throwing any chance of points straight out of the window.


Why has all of this drama occurred? Ferrari's traffic light system.


The system works by showing three lights, hence traffic lights. Three buttons are placed on the mechanics' tools and buttons are pressed once the mechanics have done their specific job. Once all three buttons have been pressed the green light comes on and the driver is free to leave the pit box.


But here are the errors:



Error No. 1: Team Error


We saw the first fault in this system in Valencia, when Massa was unsafely released from the pit box by his team. He almost crashed into Sutil and a photographer was put in a dangerous position.


The team received a fine for the incident.



Error No. 2: Driver Error


Kimi Raikkonen also encountered problems with the traffic lights in Valencia.

He was having a good scrap with Heikki Kovalainen and both entered the pits at the same time.


The camera then cut to Raikkonen driving off with the fuel hose still attached to his car, and unfortunately he had taken a mechanic with him. Raikkonen lost any chance of gaining a place off of Kovalainen.


We were then shown the on board footage and it showed that Raikkonen had accelerated on the orange light instead of green



Error No. 3: Team Error


We all saw what happened on Sunday, but let's have another run through.


Felipe Massa pitted from P1 and his stop was good. Not excellent, but not horrendous.  

However, Massa did what his teammate did just one month earlier and accelerated too early. Or so it seemed.


After seeing the on-board footage, Massa had been given the green light—the all clear to accelerate—all three buttons had been pressed. But he took the fuel hose with him and this effectively cost him the win and maybe the championship.



What Happens Next?


As you can see, the majority of the errors are down to the team of mechanics.

I don't know whether any of you saw it, but after that incident today, Ferrari pulled out a lollipop and did their pit stops in the traditional way. All was fine; both drivers had average stops.


In my opinion, Ferrari should get rid of the traffic lights; they are unsafe. I suspect that the mechanics' adrenaline gets going, they know they can win the race and try to be clever and do amazingly fast pit stops, and sometimes this happens. Two mechanics have been injured so far this season. How many more before Ferrari realize that it is best to have a lollipop?


The lollipop man can see everything from where he is standing and if he has seen that the fuel hose hasn't been pulled out he can wait until it has done, then make sure no other car is coming down the pit lane, and release the car safely. All in all, maybe a fractionally slower pit stop, but a safe one nevertheless.


I think that we will see traditional stops by every team on the grid in Japan. Ferrari have tried to be clever and it hasn't paid off. It has landed them in a sticky mess, just when the season is at its climax.





You may have noticed that this article was published last night but after an early start and an intention to edit my article, I accidently pressed delete! Sorry if this has caused confusion and please respond positively, as you always do, to both Ryan Wood's article on the same topic, and this one.


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