Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021

Minimum reaction times dropped from FIA clampdown on pit stops

2021 British Grand Prix

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The FIA has dropped a contentious part of its plan to force Formula 1 teams to slow down their sub-two-second pit stops.

RaceFans revealed last month the sport’s governing body planned to introduce a new technical directive relating to pit stops ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. This was to include enforcing minimum reaction times of 0.15 seconds at certain stages of the wheel-changing process to ensure pit stops could not be shortened by a mechanic signalling a wheel had been fitted before it was fully fastened.

The directive prompted criticism from several teams including Red Bull, who have been consistently the quickest team in the pits during recent seasons. “Seeing pit stops sub-two-seconds is a remarkable feat and we should be encouraging it, not trying to control it,” said Horner, who suggested rivals teams had prompted the clampdown in order to slow Red Bull.

Now RaceFans has learned teams have been given updated instructions on how pit stops will be policed in a revised version of the directive. Its introduction has also been delayed from the next round in Hungary to the Belgian Grand Prix in August.

The revised directive – TD022B – eases some of the contentious areas of the restrictions. It states that where teams use sensors to detect when a wheel has been fastened, the system must be able to prevent a pit stop from continuing if the wheel nut is not tightened, and the decision to proceed with the pit stop must be made by the wheel operator. However the requirement for a minimum reaction time of 0.15 seconds as part of this sequence has been removed.

Similarly, the software governing the system must prevent an operator signalling the wheel has been fastened before the task is complete. If any early signal is given, by an operator pressing a button, they must release the button and re-press it after the nut is tightened. Again, the enforcement of a minimum reaction time of 0.15s has been scrapped.

Teams that do not use wheel fastener sensors must be able to prove their operators can check the wheel has been tightened before the car is released from the pits. This may be done using a visual indication.

The directive also addresses the moment the car is dropped from its jacks and released from the pit box. Here a minimum delay of 0.2s between the jack release commencing and the driver being signalled to exit was to be introduced. The FIA has now told teams that while an instantaneous trigger would not be considered safe, a typical delay of at least 0.1s would be permissible.

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl welcomed the changes to the directive.

“There was an update on the TD based on feedback that the FIA collected after they sent it out initially from the other teams, which makes sense from our point of view,” he said. “The main objective of this TD is, first of all, to make sure that pit stops are done in a safe way and anticipate, let’s say, also bad things to happen.

“And second thing is it should also ensure that we all have a level playing field in terms of the interpretation or the application of the regulations. So we are happy with that.”

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18 comments on “Minimum reaction times dropped from FIA clampdown on pit stops”

  1. The new directives still attempt to solve a problem that to my knowledge doesn’t actually exist, and doing so mid-season suggests an urgency that looks completely unnecessary. Changing the rules mid-season really diminishes the integrity of the running championship in my opinion and it should be avoided whenever possible. I’d like to know how much Mercedes has had a hand in this. It is too whimsical and too targeted to be a coincidence.

    1. ian dearing
      18th July 2021, 10:11

      I would imagine every team who saw something at RB they didn’t like; as Siedl confirmed he did when this issue first was raised, would have approached the FIA.

      1. Why should we or the FIA care if other teams see something they “didn’t like”? Red Bull manages to perform pit stops in fast and safe manner, that is all that should matter.

        1. ian dearing
          18th July 2021, 13:27

          Because what they didn’t like was was teams pressing the wheel secure button before it was secure. Hence why some teams for safery reasons use intelligent wheelguns that don’t allow that to happen.

        2. @paeschli as noted in the first article on this topic, the regulations do state that teams are not supposed to be using active systems to speed up a pit stop.

          Whilst you say that “Red Bull manages to perform pit stops in fast and safe manner”, the thing that the FIA and those other teams “might not like” are signs that suggest that part of their pit stop equipment could be using active sensor systems in order to speed up the stops – if that were the case, then it would be illegal.

    2. Yeah, the urgency behind this is completely baffling.

  2. Excellent, I think finally FIA understands that they don’t need to fix something that never was an issue !

    1. Than why is this TD not dropped at all? In slimmer form it is still introduced in Spa, which still makes it solving a non-existent problem.

  3. Trying to fix something that’s not broken. If FIA insists so much on safety – put a fine of 5M for unsafe release, deductable from the capped budget, and watch the teams self-regulate in an instant. And even stricter than the TD.

  4. Absolutely. I totally agree with your comment. First the “bendy” rear wing and then the faster pit stops.

  5. John Ballantyne
    18th July 2021, 10:50

    Poor rules create more rules. I couldn’t get past the 6th paragraph, my glasses fogged up from laughing.

  6. I wish the FIA would appreciate how irritating it is trying to explain to my mum any of these Technical Directives or the motives / reasoning behind them. I’m sure if my mum was running F1 there would be a lot less of this going on.

    She also doesn’t ‘trust’ Christian Horner, so if Red Bull are consistently quickest at pitstops she’d just make a mid season ban on all pitstops.

    She likes George Russell though.

  7. All these rules..

    The most stupid one was removed…

    Other than that let teams conduct pitstops as they wish.

    As for me, Id love to see lolipop guy back.

  8. Unless I’m missing one, it seems there haven’t been serious issues with this since Alonso’s Hungary mishap all the way back in his Renault days where the wheel properly flew off in a dangerous fashion. That led to a race ban, and ever since teams have been very keen to avoid sending their cars out unto the track without properly secured wheels. In the rare moment that the pitstop goes wrong, the teams will instruct the driver to either pull over – thus avoiding a penalty – or even ask him to stop in the pit lane where they can still recover the car and fix their mistake.

    This latest awkward attempt by the FIA to present it as a pressing issue requiring a long list of new rules right in the middle of the championship, when the main protagonist of said championship is widely praised for their fast pitstops, is in no way a coincidence. This doesn’t just happen out of the blue, and that it happens in the wake of Mercedes reportedly complaining about Red Bull’s “interesting tactics” during their pitstops makes it look even more questionable.

    It’s a shame that Mercedes is no longer run by racers like Norbert Haug, who offered an excellent suggestion in the recent Beyond the Grid podcast: if one team is winning a lot, the simple solution is for the others to do better.

  9. Wow, that was a huge error of Hamilton. He really declassified himself here. Wow, he didnt even get the apex of the corner while Max clearly left enough space.

  10. Well I’m glad this proposed regulation has gone. The pit crews do a stunning job and if they can coordinate their teamwork to make the stop as short as possible then that’s the way it should be. That’s part of the challenge.

  11. Martin Elliott
    20th July 2021, 12:59

    I wish the FIA would make it clear which type of ‘Unsafe Release’ they want to improve ‘safety over’.

    I’d have thought a ‘holistic’ risk assessment was indicated a couple of years ago when a Ferrari mechanic had his leg broken!

    There have been 5 or 6 regulation changes concerning incorrect wheel nuts. That’s on top of several tethers (how often have they failed.

    I’d imagine all teams have Event Tree analysis of the procedure, mainly to feed into the psychometric design. I wonder how many quantify the known chance of failure at each stage?

    And where is the FIA generic version to justify their empirical delay/reaction analysis.

  12. Is there any rule against a driver moving in his pit box before the team signals that he can leave? It seems like the driver can at least anticipate the go signal if they’re going to work in a 0.1 delay.

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