New F1 pit stop rules having an impact

Max Verstappen exits his pit bay at the Italian Grand Prix

Changes to Formula 1’s pit stop rules have had an impact on teams since being introduced at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Though that event saw no racing, slow stops at following grands prix have changed the complexion of the competitive show.

Monza was a prime example, where a slow stop for Red Bull resulted in Max Verstappen falling away from race leader Daniel Ricciardo, and ultimately onto a collision course with Lewis Hamilton.

The new rules have increased the human factor in pit stops, with teams having previously used sensors to trigger the release cue for the driver.

Those systems have now been outlawed, with indicators to drivers needing to be manually triggered.

“It’s always annoying to have something change mid-season, and particularly something procedural like that,” Red Bull’s Christian Horner said of the change.

“So, the TD [technical directive] had a direct impact on the human issue that we had in Monza, which is annoying but it’s the same for everybody, we have to learn from it, understand what went wrong, address that to try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“It was a consequence of the change that was introduced.”

The change was introduced with a view to pit lane safety, with concerns that the ever-decreasing pit stop times increased the risk of cars being sent out in an unsafe manner.

Red Bull had been the class leader in terms of stationary performance, regularly clocking sub-two-second times.

“I think it’s not a secret that we had some question marks regarding the legality and safety of the pit stops of some teams in the pit lane in the last month and therefore we were welcoming this clarification from FIA before the summer break,” said McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl.

“In the end for us it didn’t mean that we had to change anything because from our point of view it was clear before how the sequence has to be like.”

McLaren has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the change; Red Bull’s Monza woes easing the pressure on Ricciardo as he headed a one-two for the orange squad.

“We’re very happy with the progress we could make on the pit stops side, compared to previous years,” said Seidl.

“At the same time, there’s still room to get better and more consistent and that’s what we are focussing on.”

“You have to look at the whole process,” added Toto Wolff, referencing a delay for Lewis Hamilton in Italy.

“There is no such thing as a human error.

“There is this thing in how the process is designed, how the equipment is calibrated.

“So, that is what we need to look at, and we need to give the best possible wheel gun and the best possible process to the mechanics so they can operate in a safe way to avoid longer pit stops but equally be fast enough.

“That balance has always been tricky for all teams in Formula 1, ever.”

Wolff’s opinion is not shared by Horner, who argues mechanics can never replace the efficiencies of automation.

“There is something called a human error and I think we saw one of those at [Monza],” he countered.

“I think you always learn and I think you change your tools as well to try and make life easier, to build in fail-safes, whether it’s within software and so on, and I think the pit stop is an intrinsic part of a grand prix and you need to rely on a stationary time as part of your strategy.

“So obviously a lot of analysis goes into a failure at a pit stop as it would do on any component on the car.

“You try to learn from it, you try to put in fail-safes to deal with the situation should that reoccur.”

Wolff does, however, concur that it is a procedural issue, rather than a technical one, that needs to be mastered in order to be successful.

“It’s a procedural situation or process that, if you have done something all through these years in the same way and then in a way you need to change, that can always be a bit tricky – but it wasn’t disastrous,” he said.

“We have mitigation in place and that was the mitigation that helped us not to lose too much time, but it’s a new challenge.”

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