The Lesser Known Race: Every Second Counts For F1 Pit Crews

Ross MessingerCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2010

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 02:  Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing comes in for a pitstop during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos Circuit on November 2, 2008 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

During a Grand Prix weekend, the circuit is constantly being used: for F1, driver parades and exhibitions, and support races. It's the ultimate place to be for a racing fanatic, as there's never a dull moment.

But perhaps the race that is least prominent in Formula One is the battle to be the fastest in the pit lane. And this year teams are under more pressure than ever before to hone their ability to perform a pit stop in the quickest possible time.

Much like for the drivers and aerodynamicists, shaving every last fraction of a second from the time is crucial for F1's pit crews, to the extent that even the slightest of delays during a pit stop could decide the outcome of a race.

This year sees the banning of refuelling during a Grand Prix, which means that the sole purpose of a pit stop—other than the odd aerodynamic tweak here and there—will be to get the old tyres off the car in as little time as possible, and fit the new ones just as rapidly.

Whereas before there was less pressure on the tyre men to make the changes as refuelling could take seven or eight seconds, it is now a race against time—and Red Bull's men say they can get the job done in an astonishing 1.8 seconds.

"We have done sub-two second stops. They are absolutely lightning," said team principle Christian Horner. "The guys have trained like hell over the winter. They have all lost weight and got fitter in the process."

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The Milton Keynes based squad—who took second place in last year's constructors' championship— have had their pit crews doing static practice stops at their base since November.

"The guys have been training in the gym at 12 and 4pm every day," Horner continued.

"There is bound to be a lot of brinkmanship as teams try to get in and out of the pits as fast as they can. It will be as exciting as anything in the race," he added.

Red Bull reckon that in the pit lane these stops will be around a second slower than times seen at the factory, especially given the possibility of delays in communication between the crew.

Teams have been working around this problem however, and some have taken more radical approaches.

Ferrari have introduced a wheel nut which features 'automatic triggering of its fastener', and have brought back an updated version of their 'traffic light' system that they ditched after 2008, in an attempt to reduce the delay in human reaction times.

Meanwhile Mercedes have introduced a similar system in place of the traditional 'lolly pop' method, whilst Renault will bring specially adapted wheel nuts and a new front jack with a quick-release mechanism.

"All those changes will come together to save quite a bit of time," said the French team's sporting director, Steve Nielsen.

Whether all this hard work and development over the winter has made a real difference is still something to be discovered, and hopefully we will see the results during this Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.

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