The Real Speed of Formula One | Inspire
The Real Speed of Formula One
Good to Know
Good to Know

The Real Speed of Formula One

It takes about 20 mechanics to complete an F1 pit stop – in under 2 seconds. How do they do it?

With millions of dollars in prize money won or lost by the speed of a tyre change, the F1 pit lane rates as the world's least suitable working environment for those suffering from a heart condition. Plus, with overtaking on the track becoming increasingly difficult, critical position-swopping often takes place in the pit lane where tyres are changed at ever-increasing speeds. 

Here's a breakdown of who does what in the pit, and shows the level of teamwork required to keep Mercedes-AMG Petronas drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas on track.

- The lollipop man: He directs the incoming car into position by standing directly in front of its parking spot (they do occasionally get run over) and holds a sign with several reminders for the driver. As technology has advanced, this function has been gradually reduced, and a traffic light system on the gantry above the driver now tells him when he's good to go. 
- Trolley jacks: Two mechanics lift the car at the front and back, respectively.  The tyre changers can't get to work until the car is off the ground.
- Tyre mechanics: One operates the wheel gun, the second removes the used tyre and the third fits the new tyre.
- Stabilisers: Two mechanics are required to prevent excessive rocking while the car is suspended on the jacks.
- Front wing mechanics: Two of them are on standby to replace or make adjustments to the front wing if the driver is dissatisfied with his car's handling.
- Fireman: One mechanic is on standby with a fire extinguisher. This role is less critical these days as there aren't any fuel rigs in the pit lane.
- Emergency starter mechanic: To save weight, F1 engines do not have starter motors – instead they’re fired up by an external motor, held by one mechanic. It's considered a successful pit stop if his services aren't required, as it means the driver didn’t stall. 

What can go wrong?
Lots. Teams practice tyre changes thousands of times throughout the year – even in the off-season. But while mistakes are costly, it's not always their fault. It has been measured that a driver overshooting his pit box by just 20-30 centimetres and forcing his team to reset their positions costs 0.6 seconds. 

*Liberate your own inner F1 racing car driver with a course at the AMG Driving Academy in Centurion.

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