Matt Deane is our team’s Chief Mechanic and following the German Grand Prix on Sunday, which saw the team record the two quickest pit stops of the weekend, we had a chat to him about how his guys get so good…
Q. We achieved the two quickest pit stops at Hockenheim last weekend. What would you put that speed down to?
During each race weekend, the team completes over 60 pit stop practices from Thursday afternoon to Saturday morning. We always try to do at least 4 stops in a row under 3 seconds during each pit stop practice. We practice at three different times during a race weekend (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) each consisting of around 20 stops. To cover every eventuality, we practice different scenarios such as a late entry into the box, a nose change or a late call on tyres. We aim to do three or four of these stops successively in less than three seconds to make sure the guys are consistently quick. The repetition ensures that each of the guys knows exactly where and how he should be positioned and for how long. For example, the four guys operating the wheel guns know that they have exactly 0.3 seconds to get the nut tight. If there is a problem area or one of the guys is struggling, we will repeat their particular role to give them more practice and increase their confidence. The role of the drivers is also absolutely crucial. It makes our job so much easier and quicker if the driver hits the marks precisely on his pit entry so we practice that during the sessions on Friday and Saturday. The last thing you need is to be moving people, wheel guns and tyres if the driver really overshoots his mark!
Q. What makes our pit crew one of the best at the moment?
The dedication of the team and our guys. They absolutely want to be the best in the pit lane at their job. Regardless of the performance and pace of the car, this is the area that we can really make the difference and everyone takes great pride in their role. If another team beats us, then we want to know how and why they were quicker so that we can respond and get our advantage back. After every race, we analyse footage of our stops and improve things accordingly. If one guy on the left of the car is not quite as quick as he could be on the right, then we would swap them around. Confidence is so important when you have a car hurtling towards you at 100kph and just three seconds to get the tyres changes and send it on its way.
Q. With no refuelling this year, is there more pressure on the guys changing the tyres?
When we had refuelling, the pressure was always on the fuel guy as he had to position the extremely heavy nozzle exactly on the car in the shortest time possible. It’s difficult to describe how difficult that was as the nozzle and hose was so heavy that it took two people to take the weight. The minimum amount of fuel going into the car would be four seconds worth plus an extra two seconds to connect and disconnect the nozzle, so that gave the tyre guys at least six seconds per change. Now, with no refuelling, we have to change the tyres as fast as we can and we aim to get this down to 2.5 seconds consistently. To do that, the emphasis is really on our strength and reactions so the team have been getting into the gym and are specifically concentrating on their reaction times and hand-eye coordination. For the gunmen, this helps them to get the nut off the wheel before it stops which saves a lot of time. Obviously this piles the pressure on the gunmen and mistakes do happen but we are well-prepared because of the amount of practice we do. At Silverstone for example, one of the guys dropped a wheel nut and managed to recover in 0.7 seconds which is incredibly quick!