Pit stop incidents prompt call for review

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There is something to be said about reaching a limit or hitting a wall of what is achievable in reducing the time it takes to pit a Formula 1 car, change all four wheels and send it on its way. Today, the time it takes can hover in the sub two second range for teams that have drilled relentlessly to perfect their pit stops.

Time, and races for that matter, can be won or lost in the pits and that’s nothing unique to F1. It happens across all forms of motorsport at varying degrees including endurance racing. What is unique to F1 is the amount of time and people it takes to make the pit stop as fast as it can be and to gain, hold or beat a position on track.

To those ends, technology has been deployed removing the lollipop person, automating the car release via a light gantry and automating the signaling of the car release system through wheel guns that send signals when their tire change cycle is achieved via rotational cycles. This was to reduce the pit stops as much as possible and remove the latency humans bring to the process as well as reduce human error.

What we may be seeing now (after the fifth unsafe release in three races according to Autosport) is that F1 has hit a barrier of human and tech-infused efficiency and to push it any further is to push the system beyond its safe application.

There have been calls for an in-depth review of the pit stop procedures and social media is ripe with all of the typical outrage and placation one would imagine. For the teams, some believe it is a case of reaching the limit while others believe there should be some sort of review by the FIA. Force India’s Andrew Green told Autosport that the FIA “needs to look at it” and:

“Teams need to look at how you end up releasing a car in a practice session without a nut done up. For me, that needs some serious thought.”

Renault’s Bob Bell suggests that reaching the limit though training and technology is what is prompting some teams to fall short of a safe release:

“We’re all constantly working on our hardware to reduce pitstop times so you just keep nibbling away at margins,” he said.

“You reach a point where sometimes you just fall over the edge occasionally.”

Green suggested that in practice sessions there isn’t any reason to rush a pit stop but Bell disagreed suggesting that if there is little reason in practicing if you aren’t doing it at race pace and occasionally the speed will bite some teams.

Occasionally being bitten is one thing, breaking legs is another. In the past, unsafe releases were met with financial damages and while there was the occasional issue or incident, it seemed that the punishment tightened the teams approach but not in all cases and it didn’t eliminate pit stop errors entirely.

Perhaps reaching a limit does require the limit to be examined.

Hat Tip: Autosport


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What were the jackmen looking at when the Ferrari incident occured? I wonder if it is possible for each jackman to see that the 2 wheels in front of them were indeed replaced before dropping their car.

A good look at the automated light process would be a start. The system should able to recognize four wheels coming off and 4 coming back on before giving a green light.

sunny stivala

At the risk of being again accused of repeating myself, but I honestly cannot help it when I read incorrect repeats. “The jack man does not release the car because the jacks are not lowered by the jack man”.
And please do not repeat asking for source of information or data.


Junipero, I think you bring up a good point. The jack man are probably in the best position to confirm that both tires have been at least put into place which would prevent an incorrect signal from the wheel gun operator. As the jack man are not dropping the jack I would think that extra step would at least prevent the situation we saw in Bahrain. I could envision that the jack man signal of ‘wheel swapped’ would be needed before a gun mans’ ‘wheel tight’ signal is taken into account. It would not delay the pitstop at all, unless… Read more »

Chris R

Maybe Uber or Tesla could come up with a safe autonomous car release system… Seriously, how does removing the human element in this context make things safer and more reliable, especially within a race situation, which is always going to be different than within a ‘test’ situation.
Four hands in the air…


Its good to see fans on this and other sites want F1 to deal with this safety issue, wonder why the same fans don’t want the drivers to have head protection?

sunny stivala

Fans and Fans, there are Fans and then there are Fans!


Thanks NC for using a Caterham picture for the article, I miss those green machines.

sunny stivala

“Automating the car release via a light gantry and automating the signaling of car release system through wheel guns that signals when the tyre change cycle is achieved”. The pit stop is highly automated up to the point of where human input is needed. This human input needed is as minimum as allowed by the present rules as are. The signaling of car release through wheel guns cannot be “automated” it has to be manually inputted by humans as the rule are at present. Because. “Wheel nut guns are fitted with a torque sensor, this sensor will record what the… Read more »


Hi Sunny,
The Sky FP3 coverage had another segment on wheel change systems, specifically Ferrari’s. Perhaps you also saw it?
Apparently the Ferrari system differs from most teams, and uses a sensor to detect that the wheel is seated, and a torque signal from the wheel gun to trigger the signal to the jack that the wheel is correctly fitted.
Other than that, the rest of the process was as you described above (and on the other posts), with the jack dropping triggered by the ‘wheel fitted’ signals, not by the jackman.

sunny stivala

JAKO. Yes I have seen the SKY take on the subject. BUT Once again being forced to “repeat”. No matter how much a system might differ from others and no matter if a “wheel seated” sensor is used or not, which I believe it is in use. “the triggering signal from wheel gun to jack/s that the “wheel is done” is activated by the gun man. because:- “As the rules at present stands the all important wheel not torque measuring and recording sensor CANNOT BE USED IN REAL TIME. Anyhow, Apart from this type of discussion having been most enjoyable,… Read more »

sunny stivala

The first person to have came out advocating that the wheel nut torque sensor on the gun activates the jacks to dropping of the car, and this was right after the FERRARI pit stop problem was non other then the much respected Mark Hughes. when I pointed to him how in my opinion the system works and explained details, including wheel nut torque measuring sensor rules having to be complied with, there was no need for me to “REPEAT THINGS”, it was simple with him, our discussion stopped there and then.


It looks like you’re going to have to have a chat with Ted Kravitz too ;-)

sunny stivala

But JAKO, I assume that in my short time on here you got to know me well enough, so I do not know how on earth you think a technical chat between me and the man that in 2014 declared to his sheep like followers that this here new power unit have no spark plugs is possible?.

sunny stivala

What I was talking about was declared to all and sundry at the very first race of 2014. The pushed out “HCCI” combustion system was by a different author and only lasted 8 days, as on the 24th the pusher author after his notice had been drawn to the fact that the “HCCI” combustion system Necessitated the use of variable valve lift and timing, both of which are not compatible with the rules, he declared that his push of HCCI being used in F1 was just speculative, and he promptly changed over to claim that the system used was the… Read more »


I have another hypothesis, one that mixes what you have repeated many times to what has been said by Ferrari. What if the wheel gun man isn’t the one pushing the ‘button’. We know that the guns are sensored. We know that it cannot be an active input to the pit stop lighting system. The sensors are allowed to be used passively though. What if the ‘button’ is being pushed by someone who is watching the telemetry from the gun. This would explain the snafu that occured. I don’t see how the gun man on the left rear would have… Read more »

sunny stivala

SUB. Let me please remind you of the rules wording re the wheel nut gun build in torque sensor “this sensor will record what the tightening torque was, this information can be reviewed later if and when needed, But this sensor cannot be used in real time to confirm to the pit crew that the correct torque was reached”. I am started to get flabbergasted by those that first they keep pushing this sensor limiting function rule aside, and while not disputing the rule am quoting then keeps pushing out automated like sensor signals to drop the car.


Actually what you quote is not tin the rules, it is a dumbed down version of the rules. The rules state, “Devices which are used to fit or remove wheel fasteners may only be powered by compressed air or nitrogen.
Any sensor systems may only act passively.”, which is what I was hypothosizing against.

sunny stivala

from the very beginning of this discussion my arguments were as is my normal practice based on the rules as are.


The only reference in the Technical Regulations is the following:
“12.8.4 Devices which are used to fit or remove wheel fasteners may only be powered by compressed air or nitrogen. Any sensor systems may only act passively.”

So is the use of a sensor to change a lamp from red to green a passive use of that sensor?

Note: if putting quotes in a comment, it is useful to others to provide the reference that you are quoting from, it allows everyone to judge the context of the quote.


MIE, i was on my phone at the time and couldn’t get the darned paragraph to copy and forgot to add it, good point though.

I would say your scenario would be the passive use of a sensor. If a mechanic or another member of the team has to visually intrerpret and act on the interpretation I would call that passive is of that sensor with regards to the pit stop sensor system. The rule as written seems a bit vague, but I’m sure the teams have clarified with the FIA to get to the systems they are using today.


So, the traffic lights telling the driver to go could be interpreted as a passive use of the sensors. This is after all what the driver is responding to, not dropping the car off the jacks.

Ferrari do have form for trying to shave extra time off pit stops by automating their traffic lights. Singapore 2008 springs to mind. Perhaps over the intervening decade they have forgotten some of the lessons learned that race. They wouldn’t be the first organisation to repeat mistakes once the old guard are replaced by less experienced staff.


That paragraph does just cover ‘Devices which are used to fit or remove wheel fasteners’

sunny stivala

The final link to the jacks lowering the car is the wheel nut having been torqued, the build into the gun torque sensor can record what the tightening torque was, this information can be reviewed later if and when needed, but the torque sensor cannot be used in real time.


MIE, I just re-read the rule and had a chuckle… a better question would be how does said light get powered by compressed air or nitrogen!?!

sunny stivala

Anybody can hypotheses to his heart content, as well as ask for source and or data prove to his heart content. As well as push aside/discard/disregard vital points to the argument that he doesn’t like to hear/read to his heart content. Also change over from the term positive to passive to his heart content. I stand with all I said from my very first post on this subject. Namely that the green light cannot as per the rules be triggered in any way or form by the wheel gun build-in torque sensor. That the “wheel done” signal is activated not… Read more »


I somehow feel you are directing this to me, at least up to the first comma, but at the same time I don’t think a discussion is what you are after here.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x