File picture: Albert Gea / AFP.
File picture: Albert Gea / AFP.

We need to improve our F1 pit stops, Mercedes admits

By Reuters Time of article published Apr 22, 2021

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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON - Formula One champion Mercedes has recognised that it needs to speed up its pit stops as the team wages a tight battle with Red Bull, the fastest team in the pitlane.

Although Mercedes made the fastest stop of last Sunday's race at Imola, changing the wheels on Valtteri Bottas's car in 2.24 seconds in a wet pitlane, it has also lost time with costly errors.

Sunday was the first time since 2018, 42 races ago, that Mercedes had topped the DHL fastest pit stop list.

"It is fair to say that we're not the best," trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said on Wednesday in a weekend race debrief on the Mercedes website

"We are losing time in the pit stops and it is an area that we have been focusing on for a while now."

An issue with one of the wheel guns slowed seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton, now only a point clear of Red Bull's race winner Max Verstappen after two rounds, at Imola.

Verstappen had stopped first, at a circuit with a very long pitlane, with Hamilton staying out for another lap and taking over the lead.

A four second stop and having to wait for Antonio Giovinazzi's Alfa Romeo to go past before the Mercedes could be released, undid Hamilton's efforts and kept the Dutchman in front.

"For the next stop we actually changed to a different gun and that seemed to resolve that issue," said Shovlin.

"There were some specific instances that affected us in the race in Imola and we will look to work on those but longer term we are still looking at what we can do with the crew, with the equipment trying to find a bit more time in the stops."

Red Bull is famously fast in its pit stops, holding the record of 1.82 seconds set in Brazil in 2019. Its best effort at Imola was 2.27 for Verstappen's car.

In 2020, the team produced the fastest pit stop in 15 of 17 races with nine of them under two seconds.

A nearly 11 second pit stop in the opening race in Bahrain in March wrecked Bottas's race, with the Mercedes driver a distant third, and was attributed to human error with a mechanic withdrawing the wheelgun too early.

At the same Sakhir track in December, an agonisingly long stop ruined George Russell's chances of a victory as a stand-in for Hamilton and saw Bottas wait 27 seconds and leave the pits with the same tyres he had come in on.

The team blamed a radio problem for that one.

Mercedes made a dig at itself days later on social media: "Someone asked us to post the pit stops from Sunday on our Instagram Reels," the team said on Twitter. "But Reels can only be 30s (seconds). Sorry."


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