Every millisecond counts in F1. That’s why Mercedes is setting its sights on a crucial area of improvement: the efficiency of their in-race pitstops. Toto Wolff, the perfectionist and pessimistic leader of the team, is candid about the pressing need to sharpen their execution in the pit lane.
Reflecting on the recent race in Austin, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes’ star driver, was quick to praise the team for the advancements made with their new floor design. However, he didn’t shy away from pointing out that there are other facets of their race strategy that need attention, specifically highlighting pitstops as an area ripe for enhancement.
McLaren, a team on the rise once again, recently set a new benchmark for pitstop efficiency in Qatar, executing a lightning-fast stop in just 1.8 seconds. This achievement has sent ripples through the paddock, underscoring the fact that pitstop prowess can no longer be an afterthought.
In contrast, Mercedes’ pitstops have been consistently clocking in at around 3 seconds, a disparity that hasn’t gone unnoticed. “We can no longer afford the old approach of first and foremost avoiding bad pitstops,” Wolff admits, highlighting the urgency of the situation.
“The others have gotten so much better that we have reached a turning point. We have to improve significantly in this discipline. We have to understand the science behind it, the processes and upgrade our equipment,” he adds, outlining the comprehensive approach needed to make strides in this area.
The quest for pitstop perfection is not just about prestige; it’s about performance and, ultimately, about podiums. DHL, a Formula 1 sponsor, meticulously records pitstop times, and the current standings paint a clear picture: Mercedes is in seventh place out of the ten teams when it comes to tyre-changing speed, with an average time of over three seconds per stop.
But as any seasoned F1 aficionado knows, the quest for perfection in the pit lane is a complex puzzle. It’s about more than just speed; it’s about precision, coordination, and the relentless pursuit of innovation. The devil is in the small details, as Ron Meadows, Mercedes’ team manager, explains. The team is now delving into the intricacies of their equipment, scrutinizing everything from the design of the wheel guns to the shape of the wheel nuts.
“We have to work on both the material and the shape of the affected parts,” Meadows said.