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2018 F1

The controversy behind F1 pit stops

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As tension in F1 races builds up, concerns over pit stops keep on increasing. It is true that experts predicted an increase in the number of pit stop accidents to follow after this season’s changes were introduced and the number of engines allowed to each driver were reduced to three. But no one expected so many incidents.

In April, McLaren’s pit stop mistake, which resulted in Stoffel Vandoorne’s unsafe release during the Chinese Grand Prix Free Practice, marked the sixth pit stop incident for 2018. Just a few days earlier, the team had another problem, which resulted in both drivers to retire from the opener in the Australia Grand Prix. Still, the most shocking of all accidents was Kimi Raikonen’s unsafe release in the Bahrain Grand Prix, where a member of the Ferrari pit crew broke his leg.

Expert sports analysts, such as the superbettingsites.com team, covered the accident thoroughly, and later it became known that Ferrari received a €50,000 fine over the pit stop accident.

Following all the pit stop accidents and the Belgian Grand Prix crash, FIA president Jean Todt commented that F1 pit stops are an issue that has to be dealt with. Mr. Todt also added that teams need to pay attention on how they release the cars, as it can result in horrific accidents.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting suggested the issues were “less and less a coincidence” after the brace of Haas problems in Australia and Ferrari’s double error in Bahrain.

Pit stop accidents “not a coincidence”?

Charlie Whiting, FIA’s race director, suggested that pit stop problems might not have been a matter of coincidence only.

Haas experienced a series of troubles in the Australia Grand Prix and Ferrari shocked everyone in Bahrain – these events were enough to fuel public distress regarding all F1 pit stops. To some, the time has come for serious changes in F1 pit stop equipment, and the FIA even vowed to investigate wheel guns.

Ferrari’s pit stop incident was caused by a mistake in Ferrari’s automated system, resulting from the wheel which could not come off and then by the re-engagement of the gun on that same wheel. According to one suggestion, the wheel did not come off because of the wheel nuts, which might have been harder to remove this season. That theory was disproved, however, as the testing of the dual retention system has been upgraded for this year.

It is no secret that pit stop equipment has evolved greatly over the past few years, making the perfect pit stop possible. At present, each team has their own system that controls a driver’s release from the stop. Further, these systems are semi-automated, with mechanics pressing the wheel gun button to indicate that the change is finished; when all wheels are changed, the driver is shown a green light.

Evidently, the system is not perfect, bearing in mind the number of unsafe releases which have led to the FIA decision to look into the issue with staple guns. Teams have announced they have learned from their mistakes and some have proposed ways to improve the system with two wheel gun sensors. That system is already adopted by some teams.

Essentially, the wheel guns work with two sensors. The first sensor estimates whether the nut is tightened correctly, whereas the other oversees the nut position and can indicate possible cross-threads. As we know, Haas problems in Australia were caused precisely by the cross-threaded nut.

There is still no information available on whether FIA has actually launched a wheel gun investigation. What is known is that Haas driver Kevin Magnussen should not investigate into the matter, as the mistakes were the result of the never-ending search for the perfect pit stop.

If teams do not back off and change their priority to start favouring safety over speed, the number of unsafe releases will hardly change, even if they adopt the latest automation technology.

Competitive pit stops will not be eliminated

Pit stops have become incredibly competitive over the years, with teams doing the impossible to stay ahead. The Ferrari system which tells the driver when to go was among the first systems to blend automation and mechanics; that system was introduced 10 years ago.

Today, this blend has dramatically reduced the number of pit stop incidents and mistakes, but it is evident that we will not witness a season with no pit stop mistakes any time soon.

Some experts have proposed to standartise all pit stop systems, which will make them slightly less competitive, but much cheaper. The FIA has favoured another solution, however – increase the level of automation to add more requirements that must be fulfilled before a driver sees the green light. That way, competition will remain intense and pit stop procedures will become safer.

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