McLaren pit stops back on track
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Jul 2012   |  2:28 pm GMT  |  51 comments

[Updated] The McLaren team may have its problems with competitiveness on the track, having fallen behind Ferrari and Red Bull in the last month, but in the pits the team is now the fastest in F1.

The situation is the opposite of the start of the season, where they had the fastest cars, but had plenty of problems in pit stops.

At last weekend’s British Grand Prix the team set the two fastest stops of the day in 2.6secs and 2.9secs and all four stops averaged less than 3.0secs. This follows Valencia where they also set the fastest time in 2.6secs.

The performance in Silverstone was especially impressive given that the right rear gunner had been injured in Valencia, when his leg was gashed by a front wing endplate and started the weekend unable to take part in stops. But after practice on Saturday morning he returned to the crew and participated in all four of McLaren’s stops.

McLaren has done a lot of work since the start of the year, under Sporting Director Sam Michael, on incorporating new equipment of the kind used by other leading teams such as retained wheel nuts and quick release front jacks.

Ferrari continue to be consistently strong, with a sub 3 second stop at Silverstone on Alonso’s second stop, while Red Bull and Mercedes both had 3.1 sec stops.

McLaren have brought updates to the car, but have clearly fallen behind Ferrari and Red Bull in recent races. One of the main reasons for this is that they struggle to balance the tyre temperatures front to rear. This has been a particular problem for Jenson Button. This is preventing the updates from making much difference to overall performance.

McLaren has been experimenting with a device which opens a flap on the brake duct to allow hot air from the discs to soak through into the wheel rim to heat the tyre from the inside. They’ve had this on the rear for a while and at Silverstone they added the feature to the front wheels as well.

There have been big advances in warming up front tyres by both Red Bull and Ferrari, as we saw in the wet qualifying session on Saturday at Silverstone, where both teams were able to get front tyre temperature. Rear end aerodynamics is another key area where McLaren have fallen behind their rivals.

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Grayzee (Australia)

I must say, I am getting a little concerned about the safety aspect ofthese super fast pitstops. We’ve seen at least two occassions where pitcrew hhave been hit. Are we getting to close to the limit of expectation and putting the risk too high. I certainly don’t want to return to refueling,with it risks, but at least the pressure wasn’t on to change the wheels so quickly. I wonder if it’s time to to implement a “minimum” stationary time limit, say 4 secs. Might reduce the pressure.Any thoughts on this, readers?


Nothing to do with the subject but brilliant photo!!


I think Mclaren are slow by a significant margin. – I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t as much as a second against Red Bull in some conditions. They certainly need a massive improvement if their drivers are to have any chance this year.


The decline in general car performance has nothing to do with their increased pit-stop performance.

Like Damon Hill said after tge rave on Sunday, there is a secret about the tyres that most of the teams have figured out but no one is telling Mclaren!!!


To all those saying what’s the point McLaren being the fastest by .2 or whatever seconds in the pits are missing the point.

McLaren’s pitstops before Silverstone have been frankly woeful, arguably costing Lewis a win in Valencia (instead putting him in a situation with Maldonaldo and we all know what happened there). There have been at least 2 other occasions which cost Lewis points. They had a very quick car at the start of the season but lost out on a haul of points because of the stops.

Therefore its good that they’ve finally done a race with flawless pitstops. What’s the use of doing a 2.6s stop in Valencia followed by a 10+ stop?!

With regard to their lack of pace at Silverstone I hope we are all jumping the gun a bit saying that McLaren is 4/5th fastest car now. There was a massive lack of dry running before the race, the track was very green and I think McLaren simply didn’t set the car up correctly – Lewis and Jenson were running with wildly differing downforce settings – they in my opinion simply got shown up by most of the other teams who managed to set up their cars better.

Lets be honest – under the current regime McLaren are getting shown up quite a lot – in times gone by, McLaren were the best team out there – rarely heard of pit stop errors/strategy errors/sending people out with not enough fuel to do a qualifying run etc etc etc


Love that shot of the pit crew. Cheers to the Photog.

Liam in Sydney

So why did McLaren not update the front wheel brake duct first instead???


Even witholut the special gas in the wheel guns (can’t remember the gas)pitstops are quicker this year.

Also are teams allowed to get specific pitstop team like Nascar at all?


I think there should be trophies for the best pit stop team of the GP or Season. F1 can afford it!


Well if you are going to hand out a trophy for that, why not one for “best dressed pit crew” or “cleanest toilet facilities” or “best cup of tea”



That means the criticisms and finger pointing worked. So, now one should criticize the speed section big time


Hi James,

would you be able to post something on Mecca’s recent woes? Could it be that the car’s development potential is less compared to Ferrari and RBR (due to stepped/high nose, due to Ferrari’s pull rod suspension)? It just seems like a drastic drop in form, uncharacteristic of Mecca. Thanks and if you already have, could you please point me there? Thanks again.


It hard wrapping my head around a fast pit stops on a car that is far from competitive. I think the real story is what is going on at the MTC. They started with a car that was the car to be beaten and in less than half a season they are struggling with cars in the lower midfield.

What happened to a car that should have developed to the point of being the car to beat to one competing for P8 and P10 in a race?

Something is seriously wrong when your whole development plan appears to be in reverse! What would cause something like that to happen?


Gosh its all doom & gloom for some “Chin-up chaps “as the English would say. I think Silverstone caught everyone unawares and some teams made better set up choices than others. That said, they are definitely a few tenths off the pace, but that can’t be clawed back over a few weekends.

As for “focusing on pit stops and not improving pace “are you guys for real ? I’m sure the mechanics operating the jacks aren’t the same guys in the design shop or the Aero dept !(laughs) So I doubt that’s the issue. I agree too that speed of tyre changes isn’t the make all & Sam Michael said they always aimed for consistency no point doing 2.5 sec if you drop a 9 sec every now & then!.-for those asked about fastest possible – I doubt you could better by more than a tenth or so given Mclaren simulated 800 pit stops ( equiv of 16 race weekends)in one day just prior Silverstone testing new equipment & procedures! Also the out & in laps really separate the men from the boys i- there can be a few seconds in this alone if drivers aren’t on it every time!

Defintely Lotus could take a leaf out of Mclarens book because they do loose a second or so every time.


*few tenths CAN BE caught up((not cant be)) sorry!


That’s not a given. What if that 0.5 seconds saved in the pit stop brings the car out 0.3 seconds ahead of a rival on track rather than 0.2 seconds behind? We’ve seen on many occasions that it’s easier to pass in the pits than on the track.

There’s no way to know if fast pit stops will have a big or small effect and I’m sure the time spend practicing stops is not detracting from the development work. Maybe a new jack uses the same personnel that might design car parts but the crew can drill without affecting R&D.


It’s a shame that when the car had the pace to win the pit stops were woeful and now the pit stops are the class of the field the car is out of contention.


If you average around a low 3 second stop for the season you will be very happy. Not about outright fastest pit stop. About consistency. Hard to win a race with a fast pitstop now with drs but u sure can lose it with a bad one.


While the actual time is impressive, i was under the impression that McLaren’s total pit time in Valencia was just over 24 seconds, where the three top teams were in the 23’s.

Could you shed some light on this, since it would indicate that Mclaren are really still not the fastest at total pit time.


In Valencia they did a 2.6 sec stop. They also had one slow one, of course with Hamilton


While it’s good they have improved, a front running team should be proactive rather than reactive to these sort of problems. They have lost their drivers, particularly Hamilton, significant points this year by sheer clumsiness. – It should not happen in a front running team with their length of experience.

I’m also saddened by their apparent inability to keep their car at the front, and I just hope their design does not prove to be the blind alley in terms of development Gary Anderson thinks it is with it’s lower nose. Currently they are probably fourth quickest as they stand which is just not quick enough for a championship challenge.


I think the last episode of the BBC forum, Gary Anderson sort of hinted ‘I told you so’ to Mclaren.


Since 2008, Mclaren has been in the almost there situation. It may look like this is another one of those years.


It does doesn’t it? Mclaren had their chances in the early stages of the season to take an early advantage and by making mistakes they have cost at least one of tehir drivers the chance to be up there with the front runners. If those mistakes hadn’t been made then they wouldn’t be panicing so much about their development issues. Isn’t it starnge that his dominance in qualifying has been completely overhauled by the Red Bulls? I’m beginning to wonder if Mclaren will get a driver in the top 4 at the end of this championship, and i’m a Mclaren fan


The stops are not exactly lightyears ahead of their rivals and are only getting mentioned as they were so woeful at the start of the season.

Let’s say their pitstops remain 0.5 seconds ahead of the rest, the maximum that will save the team of the course of the race is 2 seconds. That would require a 4 stopper, mind you.


That’s a tad simplistic. Getting track position in a tight pit battle is likely to be worth much more.


Though now we have DRS and quickly-degrading tyres, losing track position is much less of a penalty than it used to be.

I’d guess McLaren’s fast pit stop times were not really their main goal, but more a side-effect of all the work they’ve done to improve consistency and eliminate mistakes.


Great. Can they now focus on making the car more competitive now then please? Their slump is uncharacteristic of Mclaren who usually get better as the season progresses but they seem to be quite far behind Red Bull, Ferrari and possibly even Lotus now.


The problem as I see, and as I predicted in pre-season testing, is this:

The McLaren’s concept is *totally* different to all the other cars in the Paddock. This means that there is 1 team of engineers working on improving this concept, while there are 11 teams working on the alternative.

Now McLaren’s concept may or may not have just as much potential as the alternative, but the advantage other teams have is that they can look at each others cars and take ideas from their development paths. It’s probably that a lot of what other teams are developing wouldn’t be at all helpful for McLaren so they are left to design everything themselves.

In essence, 11 teams are all pushing each other forward, while McLaren are standing on the outside ‘going it alone’ with their idea.


Shame they weren’t this consistently fast earlier in the season.


The only thing that I am happy about with McLaren right now.

But thruthfully I prefer at least normal pace to fastest pit stops… they won’t win WDC with only the fastest pit stops.

It may seem I am comlaining a lot about McLaren, but let’s be real – is there something to be happy with? For a hardcore fan to see his fav team (btw known for rapid and quality development rate) to steadily lose ground is very painful.

With them being so far already in my mind I have already written them off, they won’t win any championship this year. And it also hurts. They are too inconsistent on year-by-year basis =(


I’m borderline inconsolable. It looked so promising at the start of the season. Deep down I’ve discounted this season as one where McLaren very gradually descend into total anonymity.

BUT one has to keep perspective. Even if the next few races are painful for the MP4-27, who knows? A couple of hot free practices followed by a cold race, or vice versa, could find the form table turned on its head as people scratch their heads over set-up. Lewis could scam himself a win or two. And we can only hope that the McLaren devlopment team get their backsides into gear!


McLaren is my like my mate at Uni. When he has cereal he never has milk and when he does have milk he never has cereal.

Its just one sorry tale after another. When the driver is on form the car isn’t.

When the car is fast it isn’t reliable.

Anyone else with any more?


One can only live in hope, I know its no consolation but McLaren have missed out on clear cut chances, saying that I expect a response from the team and with the pit stops out of the way, time to focus on pace and getting to grips with the tyres.

If LH can keep his cool and keep scoring points then a few wins will bring him into contention otherwise it’s until next year.


I suspect that Ferrari has hired Uri Geller to hypnotize some McLaren team members, after he worked with LH back in 2007.


James do you feel that once Mclaren is able to get back their lost performance then they can capatalise?. As i feel that due to their pit issues,the team have lost the development race as the pit problems were like a distraction. Now that they have sorted their pit woes they can concentrate on winning. Do we know of any upgrades for Germany gp?… raised chassis is out of the question?.


I think they are up against it, with Red Bull now clearly the team to beat


James…Do you think the fact that Hamiltons car (I’m not going to even talk of Button as he is massively struggling this season) was set up for a wet race was a major contributing factor to his lack of pace…and that on an overall basis they may not be in that bad shape as is being made out?



I just read a facinating article which lifts a little of the gloom over the performance. In it the author went into great detail and analysed lap times on the three tyres used and pointed out a huge dip in performance on the last set of primes used. He implies the race pace was good in the first stint on the primes, ok on the options but fell away badly on the second set of primes


There was nothing wrong with Hamilton’s pace — it was a bit of a lottery in those conditions. His luck ran out.


It’s often been said that there’s not a massive amount of difference between a wet and dry setup these days.

And if it was set up for the wet, Hamilton’s pace in Q3 was even more worrying.


How often do pit crews take hits? Obviously we saw Kobayashi clobber his team, but I hadn’t heard about McLaren’s guy before now. I’m just curious.


Stunning stuff. I think someone else noticed this in the race review, but it seems like Renault are consistently a second or so slower than the leading teams. I wonder if that’s a combination of the team personnel, as well as the drivers being relatively inexperienced with having to drop off the jacks and start moving so quickly.

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