Pit stops are part of any racing team’s essential strategy, whatever form of motorsport they belong to. Pit strategy can win or lose races, and it is argued that it was a significant contributor in Williams’ eventual loss at Silverstone earlier this year despite a flier of a start by both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Crew are lightning fast, and expected to make repairs, tyre changes and much more within the span of a few seconds – and they do so with lightning speed. Sometimes the need for speed results in hilarity. We pick and mix 5 of the best – for various reasons.
#1 Red Bull - Grand Prix of the Americas, 2013
The driver Mark Webber of Red Bull.
Riding on race day, the 17th of November 2013, in Austin, Texas at the Grand Prix of the Americas, the Australian came in for a tyre change. It was not just one tyre, however – it was all four!
Pit crew were already in formation by the time Webber came in – and completed a full tyre change in 1.9 seconds. Webber, who had qualified in 2nd that race, definitely benefitted from the quick pit stop – he finished the race on the podium in third, behind the second place car of Lotus’ Romain Grosjean. Sebastian Vettel, who was Webber’s teammate at the time, won that race, his eighth consecutive Formula One race win, the F1 record for consecutive wins within a single season.
#2 Ferrari - Japanese GP, 2013
The driver: Fernando Alonso of Ferrari
It seems that 2013 was a quick year for pit crew. The double world champion was then partnering Brazilian Felipe Massa at Scuderia Ferrari, and had qualified that race in 8th behind Nico Hulkenberg of Sauber, with Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber in pole position.
That year may have belonged to Red Bull, but Alonso pulled a blinder to finish that race in 4th, looking to keep his own championship hopes alive. The title would eventually go to German champion Sebastian Vettel.
#3 Ferrari - Singapore GP, 2008
This pit stop has gone down in Formula 1 history. Sadly, however, it is for all the wrong reasons. This was back in the day when refueling was permitted in the sport.
Brazilian driver Felipe Massa, driving for Ferrari was racing hard, in contention for the championship with Lewis Hamilton, then of McLaren-Mercedes.
came into the pits just ahead of his Finnish teammate Kimi Raikkonen to refuel. With just over 15 laps to go, Ferrari crew readied themselves with the fuel hose, pit in formation.
Massa zoomed off a few seconds later – but the fuel hose had not yet been detached from the F2008! According to the driver, lights on his dashbaord indicated that the fuel hose had been detached, although it had not. Considering the structure of Formula One cars, he would have had no way of knowing otherwise, which led to the accident.
The Brazilian would end that year in second, with Hamilton taking his first ever world championship title.
Since then, Formula One has seen a host of rule changes. The FIA ruled in 2010 that pit stops would only be for tire changes, with refueling banned immediately. It does not look set to make a comeback to the sport in the near future.
#4 McLaren-Mercedes - Indian GP, 2012
This wasn’t just a 4-wheel change, but a 5-wheel one! The team, then known as McLaren-Mercedes, consisted of Britons Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
Hamilton, a one-time (2008) champion at the time, came into the pits needing not only a full set of tyres changed, but a steering wheel too. His steering dash ran into technical issues, flashing and showing repeated errors. Discovering he was unable to change gears as the flap on his steering failed, he pulled in to the pit, with the crew executing a perfect tyre change as Hamilton detached his steering wheel and the team installed a new one in the cockpit.
All of this took approximately 3.3 seconds. Hamilton went on to finish that race in 4th, narrowly missing out on a podium spot to Mark Webber of Red Bull, who were at the end of a very fruitful racing season.
#5 Minardi - Argentine GP, 1998
This pit stop was nothing short of a disaster – it lasted almost as long as a lap!
Argentinian driver Esteban Tuero, who remains one of the 10 youngest drivers in the history of Formula One, was then a 19-year-old driving for Italian team Minardi. Following a strong karting and Formula Three career, Tuero was tipped for big things. He would drive in Formula Three alongside a future F1 success – Jarno Trulli.
At this race, Tuero pitted for tyre changes..except that pit crew did not appear until 3 seconds in, and while that is not much time in the real world, it is an entire pit session in the world of F1!
Between the tyre changes, refueling and some completely unintelligible work on the car, Tuero rejoined the race... after 41.8 seconds in the pits. In his home race.
Both Minardi and the Argentine GP are now defunct, and Tuero left Formula One the same year he began, in 1998.