In the building that overlooks the Fiorano track and which houses the new Ferrari simulator, in addition to the Haas technical office, there is also a large space on the ground floor that has been dedicated to pit stops.
The Scuderia has set up a specific area in which two teams of mechanics train three times a week to carry out about twenty tire changes per session. The goal is to arrive at the first round of the 2023 Formula 1 championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix, having already made 1,000 pit stops.
In what has effectively become the Gestione Sportiva’s pit stop room, the Prancing Horse team has reproduced the scenario that the crew will find in the pits and pit lanes of the Formula 1 world circuits. There are chairs for the mechanics waiting to intervene, obviously there are also the two carbon scaffolding from which the pipes descend, at the bottom of which are the Hurricane screwdrivers from Paoli, the Italian company that has a monopoly on these tools in the F1 paddock, alongside the and the tools needed to raise and lower the single-seater.
In one corner there is the workstation for the six technicians who are called to intervene if something does not work in the right way and each one can control the green light that would free the car from the pitch: four take care of the wheels and two of the trolleys.
Obviously there is also a red car: it is a 2018 SF-71, prepared for this use. Normally there are mechanics assigned to… maneuver the push, but the single-seater is able to move with the MGU-K alone, the electric motor generator.
The best team of 2022 in terms of tire changes was Red Bull: the Austrian side has won the special DHL Award classification for five years in a row followed by McLaren and AlphaTauri with Ferrari fourth. In 2022 the fastest stop was 1″98, achieved by McLaren with Daniel Ricciardo in the Mexican Grand Prix, while the absolute record belongs to Red Bull which at the 2019 Brazilian GP had achieved an amazing 1″82 pit stop with Max Verstappen, before the FIA decided to impose minimum reaction times in 2021.
Ferrari aims to improve the efficiency of its crew and Diego Ioverno, the engineer in charge of the assembly departments, is the one who has the task of managing the delicate organization of tire changes.
The pit stop is a delicate phase of a race because it can hardly be decisive for the success of a Grand Prix, but vice versa it can be the cause of a defeat. It is for this reason that teams focus a lot to optimize performance with work that is much deeper than it might seem.
Show your support for Scuderia Ferrari with official merchandise collection! Click here to enter the F1 online Store and shop securely! And also get your F1 tickets for every race with VIP hospitality and unparalleled insider access. Click here for the best offers to support Charles and Carlos from the track!
In the Ferrari Racing Division, the figures assigned to change tires, in addition to the normal task of mechanics assigned to them, are called upon to undergo specific athletic training three times a week which is carried out in the gym under the watchful eye of a trainer.
Physical activity and nutritional control (we should also add the indoor workouts necessary to make the tire change movements almost automatic): “During the tests we recorded extraordinary record times – says Diego Ioverno – we were able to complete the pit stops in 1”65, but in the laboratory the car always arrives perfectly aligned with the station and, above all, it stops exactly at the foreseen point, while during a Grand Prix many other variables come into play which make the exercise very complicated”. Not only that, but during training there is no performance anxiety that can strike when there may be a victory or a defeat at stake.
In the pit stop room, the white walls and floors are surprising, which are also characteristic of the rest of the building: one almost has the sensation of entering an operating theatre, rather than an area where the most common movements are studied in what must be a very well organized action.
The goal is not so much to achieve the fastest stop, but to make the pit stop as repetitive as possible, without mistakes that could compromise the result. Ferrari divides the tire changes into four categories: “Those under 3 seconds are considered very good – explains Diego Ioverno -, up to 3.5 seconds are good, but not perfect, under 4 seconds are inadequate and over 4.5 seconds we consider them failures” – he pointed out.
It is interesting to note that in 2022 the Scuderia boasted 73% of stops under 3 seconds, proving better than Red Bull which did not exceed 71%: “We could consider ourselves satisfied – insists Diego Ioverno – but we are not, because our target was to reach 80% and we weren’t able to do it”.
Is it the 2023 goal? “No, the challenge must be more convincing. We have raised the bar to 84% and are training to aim for that result, with the intention of reducing the 9% of failed pit stops. Mercedes, just to give a point of reference, has only 4% of failed stops, but the team has chosen to make slower tire changes.”
Choosing the best pit stop strategy can give important advantages and it is not certain that aiming for the fastest action is the most efficient: “It is essential to raise the average level of the team – clarifies Diego Ioverno – we have analyzed that the problems arose when we were forced to make personnel rotations in a long season that had 22 GPs on the calendar”.
In some cases the “reserves” proved to be less ready than the starting crew. A top team aiming for the world title can’t afford problems. It is for this reason that Ferrari is preparing two teams for the pit stops: one works in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The hope is to have interchangeable mechanics.
“In addition to trying to bring everyone towards the same threshold – adds Diego Ioverno – this year we have decided to make the functions more flexible: and so the person who uses the pneumatic gun can also train on replacing the wheel. In 2022 we had already intensified our activity: it was not a perfect year, but at the top end. In 2023 the intention is to improve, avoiding losing a wheel in a pit as happened last year: it wasn’t the mechanic who had the wrong position, but the call from the car had come too late and his path was blocked by the car”. – he pointed out.
The staff is sometimes subjected to small “sabotages” just to prepare the mechanics to solve all those unexpected issues that can occur during a stop with various problems and snags: “Replacing the nose – concludes Diego Ioverno – is an operation that we now do easily and we are the fastest, but it doesn’t matter much, because in any case it means that the race is compromised…”.
It should be remembered that all the teams have developed their own pit stop system and, as we said before, we have arrived at a way of releasing the car which is now automatic: the Paoli screwdrivers have been implemented by sensors that Ferrari has introduced (each team follows its own development) to make the car’s return to the track faster and safer.
The pistols detect the correct tightening of each wheel and the red LEDs that are visible on the handle turn from red to green: the trolleys, in front of and behind the F1, have actuators that make the car go down as soon as the four signals confirm the go-ahead. The six “controllers” to the computers must block the procedure if an anomaly occurs.
Fred Vasseur, team principal of the Scuderia, has promised a Ferrari car in contention for the two world championships: and that is the feeling once can notice by entering the Gestione Sportiva pit stop room…