Pushing it too far? FIA to present F1 teams with solutions to avoid pit stop errors
Innovation
Posted By: Editor   |  24 Apr 2018   |  2:23 pm GMT  |  149 comments

As the events of the past few weeks have proven, F1 teams operate on fine margins with the pit stops. They are an important event in any Grand Prix and symbolise the notion of teamwork and self-improvement.

But when they go wrong – or the envelope is pushed too far – people get hurt.

Following a period of assessment by the FIA into the various pit stop failures early in the season, Formula One’s race director Charlie Whiting is poised to present solutions to the F1 teams.

Whilst pit stop errors occasionally happen in Formula One, there has been a high level of unsafe pit releases in the first few weekends of the season, which had prompted the FIA to investigate the causes and potentially present solutions to the teams.

What errors have occurred?

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso encountered a wheel detachment during pre-season testing (worryingly this occurred after four laps of running), whilst his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne also suffered a similar fate during free practice for the Chinese Grand Prix.

In the Australian Grand Prix, Haas were denied a huge double-points score after Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were forced to pull over with loose wheels following their pit stops.

However, the worst moment of the season occurred during the Bahrain Grand Prix where a Ferrari mechanic’s leg was broken after a Kimi Raikkonen was released from his pit box prematurely. Raikkonen also had a wheel detachment during one of the free practice sessions earlier in that weekend.

What caused the failures?

Speaking ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, Whiting explained that there had been a mix of problems with pit stops and that they weren’t necessarily a replication of the same issue.

“The two incidences in Melbourne were quite clearly wheelgun operator error,” said Whiting. “They cross threaded the nuts and thought it was tight, came off and then realised a little too late it wasn’t.

“[With Raikkonen’s incident in Bahrain], the guy hadn’t even taken the wheel off, which is slightly perplexing.”

Whiting added that McLaren had investigated the reasons for Alonso’s wheel detachment in pre-season testing and presented a report to the FIA.

“What happened was that the design of the nose piece that goes into the axle, that is the thing that holds the two-stage retention mechanism. But the way that is fixed into the axle was not quite strong enough so the wheel was a little bit loose, it worked itself loose because it had done four laps prior to that.

“So when the wheel started to tip a little bit, it put abnormal loads into the things that were holding the nose in and once the nose came out, there was no retention.”

The solution? Mandatory sensors to be used by all teams

The array of problems in the pit stops mean that a ‘blanket’ solution to prevent all problems in one swoop is unlikely to be suggested, and any solutions by the FIA at this stage are likely to be in the form of additional checks.

Even though suggestions will be put to the teams, Whiting added that the FIA would likely still permit teams to mostly come up with their own solutions in the battle for pit stop domination. He initially suggested an increase in the number of sensors required during a pit stop.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to standardise [the system]. We need to make sure among other things that there is no possibility for the guy to give the OK until those two conditions have been met,” said Whiting.

“Some teams have a torque sensor on the gun and they have a position sensor. If you only have the torque sensor, you can gun the nut on and it can be cross-threaded and it’ll show the required torque but it won’t be tight, which is what happened to both Haas cars for example and the McLaren on Friday [in China].

“So some teams have got that as well as a position sensor, so if it gets to the required torque and it hasn’t moved the right amount, then it says it’s not done.

“So you’re using two sensors in order to tell the operator that it’s actually done up. Then he presses the button, the jack drops and the car goes.”

All photos: Motorsport Images

What are your thoughts on the spate of pit stop errors? Do you think more measures need to be put in place? Leave your comments in the section below.

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1

Perhaps they should be fitting Halo’s over the wheels for extra safety?

2

Introduce a rule that will extend length of a pitstop, e.g (but not necessarily) that used wheels have to be back on a rack within garage before car can drive away. This would give mechanics on a wheel-gun just a bit more time to check that wheels are attached properly.

3

Sensors in the working tools can fail.

Perhaps doing sensors for the poistion of the mechanics. I was thinking about two metal safety stripes around the parking position of the car. Contacts in the boots of the mechanics are closed if they stand on the stripe. A second thought was: could be dangerous because of the batteries of nowadays cars.

But could be done with other technique, perhaps chips in the boots helping to recognize the position, …

I was told as soon as i could speak never to play or stand between the wheels of the farm tractor.

4

My youngest daughter asked me:

Why has a driver with a loose wheel after a failed pit stop has to stop right away, but a driver with a damaged tyre is allowed to try it back to the pit? Even if loose parts of the tyre fly dozens of metres?

in my unholy opinion:

The FIA is a bunch of saints and angles who never fail, they even have a HALO

5

There were a raft of changes brought in after Schumacher broke his leg at Silverstone in 1999, there were changes brought in post Imola in 1994, there were changes brought in pretty much every time a driver hurt himself. Yet very little has changed for the guys in the pitlane, I find that really odd and a contradiction given how much FIA bang on about safety.

6

They introduced a speed limit in the pit lane, and actual marked out lanes so that a car that is coming into or going out of the pit has to travel some distance from the pit crews.

7

Hi Lee,

Been involved in a a lot of high risk work myself for most of my working life, right now the pit crews are sitting in what would be classed in most industries in the real world as the “red zone”. Martin Elliot taps into this below about potential to cause harm, minimising/elimintating risk or the task cannot be performed etc. Safety is here to stay! In fact it’s become a science in many respects, be interesting how the FIA deals with this in relation to protecting the pit crews.

8

Yes I agree.

What also strikes me is the disparity between free practice, qualifying and the race, in terms of what safety gear must be worn, both for the team pit crews and the reporters, journalists, photographers, tv crews, plps and hangers on. On some days helmets, gloves, safety glasses must be worn by team crews. On some days tv crews interviewers photographers must wear tabbards and other not.

Apparently VIPs are immune to all forms of injury and need only wear shorts and a team tee shirt to wander anywhere.

There are regs but they are blatantly ignored.

Likewise the reg preventing teams obscuring parts of the car by standing in front or placing body panels in front is also completely ignored.

9

I don’t think there’s any regulations as to what should be worn. Crew changing tyres during race are under the most pressure and at the most risk, so they do wear more protective clothing, but I think that’s by choice, not because of regulations.

The VIPs don’t get close to moving cars, don’t have to take a chance of fouling their Guccis by handling the things.

10

Thank you Life, for death or the paywall… whichever the sooner!

11

“Our sport is basically broken.” Claire Williams

12

Very sad to see that Clair had to say this. It is of course very true that while the top three teams operate on three or more times the budget of the rest of the field, it is only those with the extra bonuses that have any hope of winning.

13

Williams are full of it. They didn’t mind accepting extra money when they could, nor were they receptive to a more level financial playing field when they were a top team.

14

It’s nice that people high up in F1 are finally admitting it lmao.

15

In my opinion, the best way for racing(and the best solution) is to ban tyre changes or maybe even not allow pitstops at all.

No pitstops, no errors, but this is not the most important side here. In short, it is better to get rid of pitstops, because they increase importance of teams, not drivers. I think the drivers should be on their own during the race, making their own decisions how to manage their car and really be responsible for the outcome of the race. And if they happen to break their car, then wrestle on or retire, and not hope for a nose change.

16

Pitstops are way too quick now to get any enjoyment from it. Blink and you’ll miss it. If we’re not skiing about the show, then there isn’t any at the moment. Surely, a slower stop when you can view what’s going on and get a chance to take it in is better for the show, and a lot safer?

17

Errr..not skiing? That was meant to read ‘talking’. I bloody hate auto correct but where were you there eh buddy? When I needed you!

18

“We suffocate in our garage every time they(Ferrari) start it.” Mercedes’ team chairman Niki Lauda told Auto Motor und Sport.

19

I still whole heartedly believe that briningback refueling will go a long way to creating more interesting races. Not only will we (occasionally) have good enough tyre off set to induce overtaking but varying fuel loads too. Hay presto, an awesome sport again! The money spent carting the systems around can be made back by selling a much better sport/product and I’m sure with some of the best engineeres in the world they can design a safe system.

20

In EU and UK ( Brexit or not) there are strict laws concerning employee safety ( as in mechanics) and it is interesting that the UK HSE has published guidance on motorsport that might well mean a more vigilant eye on our beloved sport in the event of an accident.

The legal debate would ( I consider) be around the status of mechanics during a pit stop. Are they still car mechanics or proffessional sportsmen?

Either way I believe the FIA has a duty of care to them and the intervention is necessary to keep the wolf at bay

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg112.htm

21

Ultimately you need a proportionate response. I don’t want to see mechanics get hurt, and by being there I’m sure they accept the dangers, but if there’s a common sense way to protect them a bit more for the loss of 0.5 seconds of pit stop time for everyone I’m all for it. If we’re saying “no more competitive pit stops they’re too dangerous” then I’m not.

22

I think the overall component design & work practises involved in a pit stop are fine.

Perhaps the issue with pit stops is the lack of a Safety Lockout system.

Sensor technology is sufficient to have a system that lets the driver leave on the green, but the green light is unable to be lit until all four corners of the car servicing are complete.

Sensors on the wheel guns could detect if & when a wheel nut is correctly fitted for both torque & alignment.

When, & only when, the nut is secure, a signal can be sent to the Lollipop man, who is not holding a lollipop, but holding a box with four indicator lights & a button to turn the stop light green.

Unless all four wheel gun sensors have lit the four indicator lights on the box in the Lollipop man’s hand, then premature pressing of the button would fail to turn the drivers light green, thereby not allowing the driver to leave the Pit Box until successful service had been completed.

The down side is the human ability to screw up a perfectly good system, which is why nothing is foolproof.

Francesco Cigarini could have been saved from his leg injury by a Lockout system like this, & Haas may have been 18 – 20 points better off in the WCC.

23

How do you detect when a wheel nut is correctly tightened? Torque is not the answer as they already us that, also of course if a nut is cross threaded the correct torque is still achieved.

Torque plus movement ie rotation of nut driver is nearer, but would not have stopped Alonso’s problem.

In the case of Kimi the nut had jammed on and the normal torque “undo” setting was not sufficient to undo the nut, somehow he still got a green to go, which shows a serious flaw. (Did the torque sensor operate for both directions of rotation or was there a separate one for each direction. Obviously there needs to be two. They then must be on the correct side of the car. (assuming the threads are handed right and left) Plus a rotation tracker since it is not likely full travel will be achieved if the nut is cross threaded.

I think the cross threading problem is a result of the noses being made too easy for wheel alignment, the design of the nose plus nut should not allow an axial angular deviation greater than the tread pitch angle.

24

I really don’t see what all the fuzz is about.

How many pitstops went wrong the last years?

25

There’s been four cases at least in three races of cars being released with wheels not properly attached. That’s a significant increase. A loose wheel poses a lot of danger.

26

Missing the point.. A mechanic got seriously injured. Fortunately, his injuries will not result in life changing permanent disability. Apparently will take six months to rehabilitate .. I do hope Ferrari and the FIA are looking after his interests (Family).

My thinking is that they simply reduce the number of people in the pit box.

One person per corner and a lollipop man who has clear vision of the mechanics. The lollipop man would be responsible for the safety of the mechanics, and in communication with pit wall when safe to release the car back into pit lane. This system works perfectly well and safely in other forms of motorsport, why not in F1.

27

Why am I missing the point.

Yes he was hurt and that is a bad thing. But he wasn’t the first and won’t be the last. Even with extra safety measures

28
Torchwood Mobile

The Ferarri guy was standing in front of Kimi’s wheel.

Even with a successful wheel change, I don’t see him getting out of the way in a sub 3 second pit stop, even if everything else went to plan.

29

@torchwood

That’s because he was waiting for the tyre to come of, otherwise he would not of stood there.

30

It is in the teams best interests to fix the issues solely on a performance basis. Haas lost two cars that would have finished strongly in the points. Ferrari lost Raikkonen who had a possible podium. Safety or not, losing points in the race which is tied to $$$ will be the main motivation.

31

Extreme, glamorous, dangerous and sexy… When i started watching in the late 60’s and 70’s this was F1 to me. Maybe i’m a dinosaur now, the world has changed. Fuel saving, drive by wire, halo’s, carbon footprints, advertising bans, grid girls gone and an inquiry and rule change for every incident, i could go on and on… sod it.. let’s not bother eh, lets just put the drivers in a darkened room every fortnight, give them a playstation and sort out the world championship that way..

The safty conscious politically correct environmentalists can stay and watch safe in the knowledge that its sqeaky clean, green and risk free, the motor sport enthusiasts who don’t care for any of that can go watch WRC and the likes of me the dinosaurs, well .. we will have our memories.

32

I don’t know if the current crop of F1 drivers could hack it online. You wouldn’t believe how strictly track limits are enforced in virtual racing. These guys would have 20 minutes of penalties in a 15 minute sprint race 😜

33

Sorry meant to say when he knows the nut is secure and everybody clear presses the button and once all four corners confirmed light can go green

34

It seems to me there are two problems.

Problem 1: How to stop pit crew getting injured, usually by being run over, during a stop.

Problem 2: Wheels coming off after the car has left the pits.

Problem 1 is surely an easy fix. Lots od sensible solutions there.

Problem 2 is alot trickier and is perhaps raising its ugly head now the tyres are bigger and we are approaching stop times that a human just cant think quick enough to spot when something is wrong.

It would be interesting to see the stats on how many mechanics have been injured in F1 over the years in comparison to the drivers.

35

Each wheelman has a button on the wheel gun connected to the traffic light system. When the wheelman KNOWS he has secured the nut press the button. Until all four buttons are pressed light stays red.

36

You see the problem is that the guy trains many hundreds (literally) of times to do this as fast as he possibly can.. He builds it up to become muscle memory, so that pressing the button is automatic if he has to think about it he will be very much slower. Go watch Guy Martin training to stand in for one of the Williams pit crew last year. It is very educational. Channel4 documentaries on All4.com.

37

It’s become painfully obvious that F1 is now far too dangerous.

The only way forward is to run races as VR simulations with everyone participating and watching from the safety of their homes with the doors locked and all potential trip hazards and sharp edges, (you know coffee tables and the like) removed.

This risky motor ‘racing’ stuff simply can’t be allowed to be continued, lest the FIA receives a letter of demand from a solicitors office.

38

That’s the direction in which we are headed.

39

The Ferrari system uses two sensors, and they still got it badly wrong.

40

Single point of failure was if the tyre was never removed in the first place. Time to update the system

41

Rather, pit stops and Charlie are influencing the outcomes of races — and I bet, after his 30 years of F1 career, Mr. Whiting seems to finally enjoy his ‘power’ now.

42

Come on! No one was killed, burned, or maimed! Give it a break. No pun intended.

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