One of the effects of this winter's changes to the technical and sporting regulations has been to change the way pit-stops will happen: not only do the strategy experts predict one less stop per race on average, but in dry conditions the tyres...
One of the effects of this winter's changes to the technical and sporting regulations has been to change the way pit-stops will happen: not only do the strategy experts predict one less stop per race on average, but in dry conditions the tyres will not be changed. Make no mistake though -- the mechanics still have a key role to play, and that's why the Renault F1 Team mechanics were hard at work yesterday on pit-stop practice at Enstone.
"The key to a successful pit-stop is training," explains Chief Mechanic Jonathan Wheatley. "No stop is ever perfect: the driver can come in too quickly, or you can have a minor problem aligning the fuel hose. The secret is how well the team recovers from any of those small problems. There is not time to give people instructions during a stop -- so we have to rely on proper training."
This meant the mechanics spent yesterday rehearsing every possible scenario they may encounter during a race, in two one hour sessions at the Whiteways Technical Centre. After a briefing, they completed a one hour session in the morning, conducted a performance evaluation, then another hour in the afternoon. But why bother, if the pit-stops won't even include tyre changes?
"It's true that the stops will look slightly different in the dry," acknowledges Wheatley, "but if conditions change and we need to fit wet tyres, or if it rains through a race, then we will have to change tyres and fuel the car at the same time... which means we have to train for the possibility. The new rules don't actually change our practice that much: we need to prepare for the 90% of likely scenarios we will encounter, and also the 10% of unlikely ones!"
After sacrificing their Sunday, the mechanics will be in action once again at Silverstone on Tuesday, when they conduct live simulations with the race drivers. "People don't always see the teamwork involved in F1," concludes Wheatley. "The pit-stops are a visible symbol of it, and they give the mechanics a role in the race that can mean we win or lose positions. That is a big responsibility, and one we take very seriously."