Editor’s Note~ This week’s Marbles (Reader Op Ed ) is from long-time reader Paul Kiefer Jr. Paul offers his thoughts on how NASCAR may be able to teach F1 a couple things regarding safe pit stops. Enjoy.

 

If we take a look at every pit road incident, we can trace them to one thing and one thing only:  Human error.  Humans are fallible, and there are times when this fallibility occurs at the worst possible moment.  It could be that a wheel-nut is loose, the tire doesn’t go on right, so someone wasn’t ready, yet they couldn’t alert the lollipop man in time.  Maybe there’s a whole bunch of stuff going on, so much so that something is missed, and disaster hits.

We are human, thus we are prone to error, susceptible to the dreaded incarnation of Murphy’s Law.  We live in fear of something going wrong.  In the world of Formula 1, such errors can have disastrous…even fatal…consequences.  Yet, when the governing body rectifies the sport, it seems that the situation becomes worse, and those authorities make themselves to appear incompetent.  What, then, is the answer?

Let us turn our attention to what has often become the bane of international motorsport:  NASCAR.  For all its foibles, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing does have some keen minds and has often come up with positive answers.  It adopted the HANS device, and that has saved many a driver since Dale Earnhardt, Sr. lost his life at Daytona.  It has the “SAFER Barrier System” that keeps cars on the track, for the most part, and lessens the impact by absorbing the blow.  So, it’s time for F1 to pay attention, and there are answers.

First, and most important, is that there are only four guys handling the tires.  Two guys with impact wrenches take off the lug nuts, then the guys handling the tires pull off the wheels, toss them back toward the pit wall and slap on a new wheel.  Such things can be done in 13 to 15 seconds.  In the hands of Formula 1, it could easily be ten seconds.  All that’s left to be done is to clear out the equipment and used tires, and off the driver goes.

Another thing that’s native to NASCAR is the use of officials inspecting the progress of a pit stop.  Officials watching things can point out any problems and issues that may create an unsafe release.  Last time the Daytona 500 was run, I saw an official wave his right arm in the air and point to a wheel that didn’t have its lug nuts completely secured.  They may have lost time while someone ran over and re-secured the lug nuts, but the costs in lives and damaged cars would have been much worse.  Formula 1 should look into assigning marshals to individual pit boxes to ensure that all pit crew members perform their jobs properly.  The increase in safety would be immeasurable.

If the FIA were smart, it would take a page or two from NASCAR and gain some valuable benefits for themselves, the pit crew, the drivers and any other person who happens to be in the pits.

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MIE
Editor
MIE

In order for the pit box marshal to be able to see that the wheel was properly secured, you would need to reduce the number of team staff around the car. However you would possibly need one marshal per wheel to ensure safety with the speed of F1 pit stops (remember the regulations state the wheels are attached by only one wheel nut, not the five that NASCAR uses). The regulations also prohibit any device on the car to automatically jack it up, so two additional team members are needed for those jobs. Teams also have people who clear debris… Read more »

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

1. You’re right, it might require two marshals, but it also might require one. Either way, all they have to do is look on the car’s inside, then the outside (left, then right, or the other way, depending on direction). 2. Good to know that you can’t have an automated built-in jack per rules, but you’ll see that, in NASCAR, there is still one dedicated jackman with his chack. F1 jacks don’t work the same, so maybe there will still be two jackmen, but you still need only two guys to loosen and tighten the wheelnuts and two guys to… Read more »

Andreas
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Andreas

From what I’ve seen over (far too many) years of watching F1, it’s very rare that a wheel comes off without the wheel gun man knowing it was going to happen. In other words, even though the incident starts as a problem at a specific wheel (cross-threading or other issues) it only turns into a wheel-coming-off incident when the car is let out of the pit box prematurely. Autosport ran an article the other day, where they described the steps teams take these days to cut fractions of a second off a pitstop. For instance, the wheelnuts on a Ferrari… Read more »

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

Interesting thought there, but you could still cut it down to four, at a minimum, and they have to give a signal to inform the jack guys (and the officials) that they’re ready. A simple raised hand would do it.

yoshif8tures
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yoshif8tures

Can the FIA push through changes if there isn’t a concord agreement in place at the moment? Could they also push through changes under the pretext of safety?

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

That would depend on the procedures that the FIA have in their own rules.

BladeDancer314
Guest
BladeDancer314

Won’t work.