The Art of the F1 Pitstop

Team

A pitstop is one of the most strategically important elements of any race weekend, be it in qualifying or the race. It takes a perfectly choreographed team of well-oiled, sharp individuals to execute one perfectly, and with the current benchmark standing at around 2.0 seconds flat, it’s no mean feat.

Here we break down McLaren’s pitstop team: who it’s comprised of, their individual roles, and how they possibly manage to do it so well, time in, time out, under the glare of the world’s camera flashbulbs.

The crews

The mechanics are divided into three sub-groups:

Car crew

Work directly on the cars – each car has a #1, who oversees the work, and front- and rear-end mechanics, who build up the suspension and corners. There is also usually a ‘floating’ mechanic for each car too.

Garage support

The crew that builds and maintains the garage, ensuring the garage operates smoothly. This crew includes an IT engineer, an electrician and a mechanic who looks after the pitstop equipment and pneumatic air supply.

Car support

These mechanics support the car crew, building and assembling wings and brakes and repairing and fabricating carbon-fibre floors and bodywork.

Practice makes perfect

At the factory

Two sessions per day – 1215 and 1600; 15 set-ups per session.

Two gym sessions per week with all pit-crew mechanics – mainly to build core stability.

The factory sessions are primarily about technique – trying new solutions and permutations, arranging and re-arranging crew members and testing new equipment.

At the track

One session per day (Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun) – about 12 set-ups per session.

The track sessions are more about understanding the different pit lane layout and environment at each venue. The pitstop location is quite track-specific, so these rehearsals are about troubleshooting how the mechanics move from the garage to the pit box, and how they can operate quickly and safely in the pit lane.

With more space, the trackside practice runs also allow the team to rehearse a wider number of variables: changing the nosebox; using a ‘single crew’ (sometimes used during qualifying to service one car when the other car is being worked on in the garage); practising a ‘double-shuffle’ (when both cars box one behind the other); using the pneumatic starter when a car stalls; practising a steering wheel change, etc.