Formula 1 returned from its summer break a good month ago with new rules that went under the radar somewhat. For Belgium, the F1 teams were given the squeeze for the first time when it came to pit stops. Reaction times and safety mechanisms were introduced by the FIA technical directive, and this rule is claimed to be targetting Verstappen by Red Bull.
Red Bull, the current ‘pit stop Champs’ objected to this and felt that they were being deliberately slowed down to bring the Championship closer. Others, like McLaren, welcomed the FIA’s move to finally guarantee safety in the pits. But how big was the effect of Technical Directive 022 really?
Let it be said in advance: the directive in its original form, as it was once leaked in Austria, never happened. The toned-down form – news of which came in the wake of a dramatic Silverstone weekend – overturned the extreme minimum standing times and postponed its introduction until after the summer break.
Nevertheless, it is now finally regulated when a wheel-gun may report a wheel as “tight”, when the nut has been tightened fully. not when the wheel is simply put on, as it was said to have been practised by teams before.
The impact sensor is only allowed to report “tight” when the nut is in place.
The mechanic then presses the OK button. When all four OK signals have been received by the mechanic responsible for the traffic light, he may release it. This is also where the last remaining minimum time is found. It must take 0.1 seconds for the mechanic to switch the traffic light to green.
A critical aspect of the whole thing is that if the button is pressed too early anywhere in this sequence, the signal may no longer be released. And – the mechanic must consciously send the release again.
Indeed an impact has been recorded, in Zandvoort and Monza the average pit stop time increased. Even if you exclude stops over 3.5 seconds, which are generally regarded as a mistake, an F1 car stood still for an average of 2.69 seconds at Zandvoort and even 2.89 seconds at Monza. Thus, the average seems to have climbed back to the level of 2020 when the times were dropping at the beginning of this season.
On top of that, the teams seem to be struggling with the new procedures. At Monza, four of 18 stops took longer than 3.5 seconds for no apparent reason. At Zandvoort it was eight out of 27 – a season high. At Monza, such “failed stops” came to the fore when both Lewis Hamilton (4.22) and Max Verstappen (11.1) were caught out.
The man with the jack had not got the go signal from the tyre changer at the front right, although everything was ready, Red Bull later judged the rare mistake of the best pit crew. While Toto Wolff in the ORF interview was already looking for the new rules: “All four wheels have to be manually released. If someone pushes too fast, the system doesn’t release and the jack keeps the car up.”
So can the McLaren camp feel vindicated? Because Andreas Seidl’s squad was one of the loudest advocates of the rule change: “The way we do our pit stops, we try to exhaust the possibilities, but also to guarantee the safety of our pit crew.” Seidl was happy to see proactive action from the FIA back in early summer: “To not always wait until something happens.”
In any case, nothing has changed in McLaren’s standing times in the mid to upper two-second range. While Red Bull’s average standing time – in the eleven races before the summer break it was 2.32 seconds – grew to 2.49 in the last two races, even excluding the mammoth Italian stop.
Pit stops under 3.5 seconds on average
|team||Before rules||After new rules|
Of course, Red Bull cry foul play at hand, but actually it is clear they still have the advantage and the rule is relative and effects all teams.
Red Bull is still the benchmark. At 2.15 seconds, they delivered the fastest stop after the summer break at Zandvoort. In Monza they still got the second fastest of the day with 2.49. The fact is, the gap has shrunk in the first two races. But is that permanent? Even the best can have two bad weekends in a row. More data is needed to firmly conclude the impact.