The teams 'puncture' in the pits: safety, yes, and the war between Red Bull and Mercedes

Bill Pat Symmonds, the veteran British engineer, that a single pit stop to change tires in a race generated in Williams a twenty page report to analyze every technical and human detail of the maneuver. The importance for the result and the complexity and sophistication that this action contains have made this department a strategic priority. And it will be even more so until the end of the season.

Czech Pérez received a disastrous eight-second stop at the Russian GP that ruined third place, which went to the hands of Carlos Sainz. In Turkey, it was the Spanish’s turn with another 8.1 seconds that left their comeback in eighth position. Given the intense duel between Mercedes and Red Bull, as well as Ferrari and McLaren, the tire change will be a decisive factor in the final stretch of this season. Especially after the FIA ​​decided to scissor with a new technical directive aimed at slowing down the pit stop frenzy. For security reasons, although with the background of the political struggle between Red Bull and Mercedes to clip the wings of their rival wherever possible.

More human factor

From the disappearance of refueling in the past decade and difficulty overtaking on the track, the strategic value of changing tires has become a crucial factor. The perfection of the maneuvers has reached astonishing heights through the refinement of its different areas: positioning of the car, greased mechanics in hundreds of practices exhaustively analyzed to polish any detail … In parallel, a sophisticated specific material with jacks has been developed, shafts, nuts and smart air guns. Design, materials and measurements, operating gases (now only air and nitrogen are allowed)… But the marks achieved in these times were not just a matter of timing and finger agility. The technical and human factor it reached another dimension with electronic synchronization through sensors and check systems that coordinated with each other until the green light to the pilot. All this has meant an extraordinary investment in equipment, with Red Bull as one of the leading teams in this regard. Its extraordinary brands are not surprising.

But the FIA ​​has decided regulate tire change procedures from the Belgian GP. From mounting the wheel, releasing the jack, to the appearance of the green light at the traffic light. Now, the wheels must be on the ground for the jack to release the car, and two tenths must elapse between this last maneuver and the green at the traffic light. On the pistol, a button operated by the mechanic allowed the system to check that the wheel was tight, sending a signal to the jack and then to the traffic light. Now the mechanic will only be able to activate that button after, and not before, the gun detects that the tire has been mounted correctly. It supposes, in short, reduce ‘software’ intervention in favor, albeit minimally, of greater human intervention.

Neutralize Red Bull?

In the 2019 Brazilian GP, ​​Red Bull made a stop of 1.82 seconds and this season accumulates another of 1.88 (Hungary) and three in around 1.9 seconds. Of the first eight races, Red Bull was fastest in six. The titanic duel with Mercedes places a crucial value on this aspect. Even Mercedes recognized its inferiority this season after several disastrous stops, especially that of bottas in Monaco that cost the victory of the Finn. Safety is never a good enough argument and the FIA ​​wants to eliminate errors with incorrectly mounted tires as much as possible. But this new FIA intervention occurred in the year of the most intense sporting dispute since Red Bull won its last title. The Austrian team has been, until the entry into force of the last technical directive, the best without question in this area. Aileron flexibility, performance and legality of power units, advantage in the pits… The fight is not limited to asphalt.

Precisely that Christian Horner Complaining loud and clear about the new directive pointed out who it hurt the most. And that it was driven by its main rival confirmed its ultimate motivation. Mercedes resorted to the euphemism of requesting a “clarification” from the institution, as recognized by the Toto Wolff when he recognized “his doubts about some things”, in particular about one of the “safety mechanisms”, which could well be the way to use the button on the gun in connection with the jack and the traffic light. “If you cannot be defeated then obviously the most logical thing is that your rivals try to stop it and that is what is happening here, “complained Horner after the entry into force of the new directive.

The effect until the end of the year

“The pit stop itself ended in the time we consider normal, but the signal (the traffic light) -because we have signals that are activated manually- were not received by the system. There was something wrong that we have to check in the signals. manuals that the system detects. It’s a shame, because the shutdown had been completed normally. ” Mattia Binotto revealed behind the Turkish GP the effect of the new regulations on his mechanicsLike Horner at Monza: “There was a rare human error at our pit stop as a result of the new technical guidelines. The error meant that Max was not on track where he should be. Mercedes made the situation worse by failing with his own stop. in Hamilton’s car, leaving the two drivers holding hands. ”

It cannot be denied that Mercedes was achieving her goal. Effectively, Max Verstappen suffered his team’s mistake at Monza and Hamilton threw himself out of the pits. The Dutchman was on track to finish ahead of his rival in the race. Checo Perez lost crucial points in Sochi, and although Horner did not attribute the mistake to the new regulations, it is striking that Red Bull’s relentless machinery failed in two races in a row. There are still six Grand Prix.

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