AUTO PACKAGE: F1 teams turning to fitness gurus, dietician seeking elusive 2-second pit stop

  • Article by: MICHAEL CASEY , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 24, 2013 - 5:45 PM

SILVERSTONE, England — Formula One for decades has been all about the cars and drivers. This year, pit crews are finally getting their due.

Desperate to gain an edge over their rivals and facing more stops due to tire troubles, teams are investing heavily in training and equipping their crews. The tops teams have almost cut their stops in half over the past two years. Red Bull claimed it clocked the fastest-ever stop five times at the Malaysian Grand Prix this year, reaching 2.05 seconds. The previous best was 2.3 seconds set by McLaren last year.

The increased speed has not come without costs.

Several drivers have seen their races go up in smoke when tires were not attached properly. Red Bull suffered that mishap at least twice this year — the last time in Germany when the right-rear tire from Mark Webber's car came off in the pits and hit a cameraman.

"Every time you come down the pit lane if you can be a second quicker that means with a three-stop strategy you will save three seconds of race time," said McLaren sporting director Sam Michael, whose team had the fastest pits stops for 10 races in a row last year.

"We are pretty much going two seconds quicker than what we were going two years ago. Typically a good stop was 4.5 seconds and now 2.5 seconds and two seconds is typical value," he said. "If you save one second, that is same as saving as car being one-tenth of a lap quicker for 10 laps."

Pit crews have always been crucial to a F1's team success but they often were chaotic, and speed was rarely a factor since refueling gave them plenty of time to put on fresh wheels or remove a damaged wing. The end of refueling in 2009 and then the replacement of the lollypop man — the guy holding a sign that held a car in the pits and cleared it for release —with an automated system prompted teams to give pit crews a closer look.

The result has been an overhaul of the way pit stops are conducted, with teams attempting to make them more consistent and coordinated.

The best teams look more like dance groups, with 20 to 24 people surrounding the car as it comes to a stop. In a blink of the eye, the jack men lift the car in the air, the wheel gun men have the nuts off the wheels and the wheel-off and wheel-on guys slap on new rubber. In that time, another guy adjusts the wing if needed.

"Now, the emphasis is on the time it takes to change the wheels. That is your total pit stop time," said Steve Lawrence, a Williams pit crew member who also is a mechanic on Pastor Maldonado's car. "So it has ramped up considerably in the last few years that we must get these pit stops times down ... There is more pressure but some of that is taken away by the amount of training we do."

Most fans remember a bad pit stop — a wheel nut shreds, a jack malfunctions — if it somehow ruins a race or ends a driver's day. A good stop, in contrast, often goes unnoticed but can keep the likes of Sebastian Vettel in the lead or position the triple world champion to overtake a rival.

Teams now spend huge sums to design their own equipment and improve the fitness of their teams who also work as mechanics. McLaren is working with the English Institute of Sport to hone their 24-member team's technique while Williams has partnered with Olympic champion Michael Johnson's Performance Center to work on everything from diet to eye-hand coordination to core strength.

Training has also been ramped up. Most teams have rigs to practice on in the factory and pit stops are practiced as many as 70 times over a typical race weekend. Each stop is timed and videotaped for later review.

"When you had to go from 3.5 seconds down to a lower number, then you really need to be very specific and accurate on how you train because everything needs to be very synchronized to achieve that level of fast time and consistency," said Williams' chief race engineer Xevi Pujolar, whose team had its fastest pit stop this season in Spain after making changes to its crew but still is almost a second behind the top teams.

"There still a lot of room for improvement and we are working hard to catch up to these guys that do close to two seconds," Pujolar said. "If you look at video of pit crew and how they move during pit stop, everything is so well coordinated. To achieve this level of coordination on every pits stop requires a lot of training."

Williams may be taking the most unorthodox approach. It has hired professional rugby player Davie Wells to lead its training and is considering introducing mental techniques which would help the crew envision the perfect stop. It has also rolled out a five-part video series on YouTube celebrating the virtues of the pit stop.

As teams close in on the two-second stop, they also are careful to emphasize safety.

Red Bull's mishap in Germany resulted in a $39,539 fine and, according to, prompted the team to change procedure after finding that a crew member accidently pressed a go signal that allowed the car to be released early.

FIA, the sport's governing body, also ruled that only team personnel and marshals will be allowed in the pits during qualifying and races. It will also seek the World Motor Sports Council approval for team personnel to wear head protection plus request a reduction in the pit speed limit from 100 kilometers per hour to 80.

"I think it's possible to get below two seconds. I think it's dangerous to put too much focus on that," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said, adding he has advised his team not to push so hard.

"I think now they are sufficiently short that in fact the odd tenth difference between the stops isn't material," he said. "What is material is the pressure we put people under to get to about a two second stop. Every now and then it goes wrong, and so the ones that are material are the ones that go wrong because of the pressure we put on people to try and do it in two seconds, and those are the ones that are often the game-changer, not 2.3s versus 2.4s versus 2.6s."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Kansas City - J. Vargas 7:07 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Buffalo 0 1st Prd 7:40
San Jose 0
Boston 6:00 PM
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
New Jersey 6:00 PM
Dallas 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:00 PM
Chicago 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Florida 8:00 PM
Washington 9:00 PM
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia 27
San Jose St 31 FINAL
Navy 41
Northern Ill 28 FINAL
Eastern Mich 17
(25) UCLA 24 3rd Qtr 9:06
Colorado 14
Akron 21 3rd Qtr 5:00
Ball State 16
Massachusetts 20 3rd Qtr 4:25
Toledo 28
Ohio U 7 3rd Qtr 5:58
Western Mich 28
Ga Southern 41 3rd Qtr 5:00
Georgia State 17
Kent State 3 3rd Qtr 13:00
Miami-Ohio 7
Oregon State 7 2nd Qtr 12:06
Stanford 21
Fla Atlantic 10 2nd Qtr 11:25
(23) Marshall 7
Louisiana Tech 3 2nd Qtr 11:38
Southern Miss 7
(1) Miss State 10 2nd Qtr 14:00
Kentucky 7
Georgia Tech 28 2nd Qtr 13:58
Pittsburgh 0
(22) West Virginia 14 2nd Qtr 11:54
Oklahoma State 3
Texas Tech 10 1st Qtr 1:22
(10) TCU 24
Michigan 0 2nd Qtr 10:22
(8) Michigan State 7
Boston College 10 2nd Qtr 8:08
Wake Forest 0
Central Mich 14 2nd Qtr 9:50
Buffalo 0
Vanderbilt 0 1st Qtr 6:10
Missouri 3
Old Dominion 3 1st Qtr 5:24
Western Ky 14
UNLV 0 1st Qtr 6:04
Utah State 0
Temple 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Nevada 10:59 PM
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Los Angeles 0 2nd Half 25:00
Seattle 0
D.C. 0 1st Half 30:00
Montreal 0
Toronto FC 6:30 PM
New England
Portland 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 0 5:22
Toronto 5
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters