Pit stops – sometimes where a race is won or lost, a true display of ultimate teamwork where every piece in the wheel-changing puzzle moves like clockwork to change a car’s 4 tyres, make wee changes to the aero on a car and even wipe the driver’s helmet in usually under 3 seconds. Key word there: usually.
In the recent years Williams have been the gold standard of pit stops. In 2016, out of the 21 races, they had the fastest pit stop in 14 of those races. Thats 66%! Mercedes and Red Bull were joint second with 3 apiece, and Renault snuck one in at the end of the season in Brazil. They also hold the record (tied with Red Bull) for the fastest pit stop; an incredible 1.92 seconds! That’s the amount of time the car was at a standstill. Their team is so good, that they’ve consulted with hospitals on how to move efficiently to resuscitate new born babies! So the fact that Williams are chasing the white-stag of 1 second pit stops, is hardly surprising.
Blink and you’ll miss it. Seriously.
Unfortunately, not all pit stops go as smoothly as the clip above. In fact, there have been some howlers that have made drivers angry and ruined races. I’m going to look at a selection of 5 of them. Now, I’m not calling them the ‘5 worst’, because that’s hard to judge really. I’m also not including pit stops where something has by accident, like the fuel nozzle coming loose or drivers making a mistake. My definition is a breakdown in the communication between the pit crew, which ruins the fast fluid motions we’re used to seeing. So, in no particular order…
1. Juan Pablo Montoya – Williams – Spain 2002
Williams weren’t always the golden child of pit stops, oh no! Despie managing to finish 2nd after starting 4th, Montoya’s race wasn’t helped by a bit of a stramash when it came to his pit stop. Wheels came off, wheels went on OK, but as was usual in the period ’94-’09, the car had to wait for the fuel man to finish. Unfortunately, the lollipop man got bored, or saw a wasp or something and decided to let Montoya go. This caused the fuel man to hitch a lift for a few feet, and then the indecivness of the lollipop man meant he ended up with his foot stuck under the front left tyre of the car. Thankfully, no one was hurt, though Montoya would have been less than pleased. Ultimately, it wasn’t disasterous as he went on to finish 2nd.
2. Esteban Tuero – Minardi – Argentina 1998
Minardi. Everyone’s favourite underdog team. They suffered an awful break in communication when Argintine Esteban Tuero came in to pit on lap 36, only to be greeted with a perfect storm of chaos and confusion. He comes in, but the tyres weren’t ready and the fuel hose had problems. In fact, he was sitting without a front left tyre before the new one arrived. On the wrong side of the car. This is probably the perfect example of ‘How Not to Pit Stop’, and the ‘Benny Hill Theme’ goes well with the video. Then, once all was said and done he gets pushed out of the pitbox by the rear pit crew, in an almost comedic fashion. Poor Esteban ended up losing a whole minute in this pit stop in only his third race. I wish I could say he went on to finish well, but he ended up in the wall on lap 63. His F1 career ended at the end of the season.
3. Red Bull – Monaco 2011
This one goes to the whole RB team, as they tried a double pit stop but it didn’t go so well. Granted it was a late pit stop call, but the well oiled machine ground to a sickening halt here as Vettel had a slow stop due to his front right, then Mark Webber had trouble with all 4! Of course, by ‘trouble’, I mean ‘weren’t there’. Despite the royal mess up, Red Bull still managed to secure the win for Vettel and a third for Webber, who managed to fight his way up through the field after this pit stop, which was slightly more ‘stop’ than he would have liked.
4. Jenson Button – McLaren – Great Britain 2011
2011 was a bad year for pit stops apparently, must have been something in the champagne…
At a first look, all seems well for Button as he leaves the pit box, right up until he turns right. It’s then he notices that his front right isn’t quite attached properly. If you rewatch the clip, you can see that the front right wheel man obvioulsy notices that his gun isn’t working, and reaches for a new one. Unfortunatley an over-excited lollipop man, along with his side kick, front-jack man think all is hunky dory and send Button on his way, only for him to stop just after the pit lane exit, continuing the 2009 world champ’s run of poor form at his home race. I’m sure Button was wishing that he had used Red Bull’s team, like he had tried in China…
5. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – Monaco 2016
Oh dear, a double entry for Red Bull pit stops who mucked up an Australian driver’s race. In what was a thrilling Monaco race, which saw Ricciardo take pole, and look like he ws going to win! All up until that fateful pitstop when the pit crew simply weren’t ready for him. Whether it was a late call by Ricciardo to come in, or whether the team just weren’t organised this is one of the most painful stops to watch and denied Ricciardo a well deserved win.
These are but a few of the bad pit stops we’ve seen over the years in F1, and no doubt there’ll be more to come in the future. There’s plenty of compilations on YouTube if you want to see more pit stop fails.
So what have we learned about making a good pit stop? You need to work as a team, you need to communicate between the driver and the garage and you need to make sure you do your job properly. It would probably also be advisable if you avoided the Red Bull garage if you’re Australian.