For the people less familiar with Formula 1 the race is all about drivers’ skills, the ability to take a risk and overtake; in reality, the race depends not only on the driver sitting in the car, it’s also a mix of the team members’ hard work – on the base, in the garages, at the pit wall.
One of the moments that could affect the final result is a so called pit stop strategy and a pit stop procedure itself. Formula 1 history has witnessed numerous pit stop mistakes that have caused a loss in a race or even a championship – as it was with Felipe Massa almost 11 years ago. These were the years when refueling was the part of regulations, so Massa’s car was released from the pits without unhooking the refueling hose; however, even if today we don’t have problems like this, pit stop fails are still a topic for discussions. Let’s just recon how sad and disappointed Daniel Ricciardo was by the end of Monaco Grand Prix in 2016, when he was heading to win, but the pit crew haven’t prepared the proper tyres in time, which led to the 2th place on the podium.
Slow pit stops are sometimes a problem as well. In 2015, when a DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award was introduced, the teams got another motivation reason to make mechanics work faster but not worse. However, there were also situations when the team was fined or the driver was penalized or can’t finish the race at all, because of unsafe releases and the tyres or front wings not properly attached to the car (for example, the cases with Stoffel Vandoorne in 2018 Chinese GP practice and Sergio Perez at the same year’s France GP practice).
In particular, last year’s Australian Grand Prix went totally wrong for Haas F1 team – two unsafe stops put both cars out of the race, the team losing valuable points in Constructors standings and being fined €10,000. Ahead of the first race of 2019, team boss Gunther Steiner stated that they have practiced a lot not to repeat their past mistakes:
"We obviously haven't forgotten last year's pitstops in Australia, which went wrong," he said.
"This year we've put a lot of emphasis on arriving there prepared. We brought a 2018 car to our car build in Italy so we could train every day and work on pitstops. We did the same in Barcelona, as the current car is not always available for pitstop practice when you test.”
"Every day the whole crew practiced around 10 to 12 pitstops a day."
Some serious accidents have also happened because of the above mentioned unsafe conditions: it’s enough to remember a cameraman that got hurt when a wheel from Mark Webber’s car came off and hit him, or a horrible video of Ferrari mechanic’s broken leg during Kimi Raikkonen’s pit.
That all together, as well as chosen strategy and even a bluff, sometimes used by the teams to imitate pit stop preparations and confuse the rivals, is a part of racing.