Sainz urges safety changes to tight pit lanes which risk ‘very dangerous situations’

2022 Italian Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz Jnr has warned that some pit lanes Formula 1 uses risk creating “very dangerous situations” because they are so narrow.

The Ferrari driver was given a 10-second time penalty for an unsafe release from his pit box during last weekend’s race at Zandvoort. However he maintains he had to take evasive action when a McLaren mechanic appeared in front of him, which slowed his exit and caused him to hold up Fernando Alonso.

Sainz says more attention needs to be paid to the safety of mechanics in F1. “I think it’s something that is not talked about enough,” he said.

“We go to pit lanes during the year that are definitely too tight and we need to improve safety,” he said. “We need to improve safety for the mechanics because we forget that those people wearing suits and helmets during the pit stops are in the middle of cars going at 80kph and there’s centimetres apart from accidents and from very dangerous situations.”

Zandvoort has one of the tightest pit lanes F1 visits. Formula 2 told its drivers they were not allowed to make their mandatory pit stops during Safety Car periods at the track.

However F1 had no similar rule and Sainz incurred his penalty when multiple drivers pitted during a Safety Car period. He said more needs to be done there and at other circuits to protect mechanics.

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“I feel Zandvoort is a great track,” he said. “I want to go back there every year and I want to to keep racing at Zandvoort, Singapore, Budapest – I’m talking about narrow pit lanes.

“But we need to think about the the mechanics and how tight everything is in there because it’s just too tight and I think we need to to improve the safety.

“We talk a lot about car safety, circuit safety but in the pit lane I’m concerned that one day something could happen if we keep having these narrow pit lanes and so much going on, especially when there’s multiple pit stops going on at the same time.”

Sainz said he raised the matter after last week’s race and may pursue it further today. “It hasn’t been questioned yet in a GPDA meeting or FIA meeting. But it’s something that I brought up to the stewards after the race explaining to them why did I have an unsafe release or what they called and unsafe release.

“I think I made the message clear to the stewards, they would pass that to through the race director and the FIA. Whether it’s a matter that I would raise in the drivers meeting I haven’t thought about it, but it might be a possibility.”

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2022 Italian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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16 comments on “Sainz urges safety changes to tight pit lanes which risk ‘very dangerous situations’”

  1. Poor Sainz.
    He clearly hasn’t seen any of F1’s pit lanes of the past. There were more teams, more cars, no speed limits and, at most tracks, far less space (both in width and length).
    Go far enough back, and there wasn’t even a wall separating the pits from the track.
    Not being able to leave your pit space completely unhindered in such circumstances during a race is not a safety issue, it’s an expectation problem.
    They could always build shorter, narrower and more nimble cars…. That would also solve the ‘problem.’

    I’m reminded of the 43 car grids that Super GT run at small circuits such as Sugo in Japan. Everyone knows it’s tight, and just has to adapt accordingly.
    But this is F1 – where when someone is unhappy, the rules and circuits need to be changed instead.

    1. Absolutely correct. Whenever there’s a problem it’s the circuits that are required to change rather than the cars. The current cars are way too large – more like trucks (Ettore Bugatti would surely agree). For years we’ve heard driver after driver complain at almost every track that “overtaking is so difficult around here”. The problem has not primarily been the circuit, but the design of the F1 cars. On many of the same circuits we have seen plenty of overtaking in F2 and F3.

    2. Just because F1 was more dangerous in the past doesn’t mean we should sit on our laurels and tell people to stop complaining. It is better to fix problems when we spot them than it is to wait until someone is seriously injured and then use our powers of hindsight to complain that someone should have done something about it.

      1. Yeah, I totally agree – provided the problem is one that requires solving.
        In this case, the pit lane is fine – the competitor’s approach to it was the issue.

  2. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    9th September 2022, 8:01

    Well I think Ferrari and Sainz first should go on a training course how to drive in pitlane and how to properly prepare and execute a pitstop.

    All the other teams managed without a real safety issue, pitlane speedlimit is 60kph and it was a Ferrari guy standing somewhere he shouldn’t that almost got hit by Norris and then Sainz.

    Watch the replay and you will see that Sainz claims are rubbish, in no way did the Mclaren crew hinder Sainz nor would he have run over the Jackman of Mclaren had Sainz not stopped.

    Would it be better if they pitlane in Zandvoort be a bit longer, YES but drivers and teams should learn to adapt to the circuit rather than the circuits being adapted to the wishes of the drivers and teams.

    Best example is the run off at turn 1 at Spa, till this year there were always folks “needing” the run off certainly on lap 1, this year with there being gravel no one “needed” that space, MAGIC.

    1. +1 adapting is a very important part of a racing driver. Noone had any problems only Ferrari (twice) had maybe is that what Ferrari lost the championship.

  3. Happens to care because it diverts from his mistakes. Not cynic at all.

  4. I mean he’s clearly ranting to try and lessen the blame on his shoulders for last week but he does have a point that more could and should be done to encourage circuits to increase the amount of space in the pits. It’s not something that is a short term fix but there should be a view in the long term to extend bay lengths where possible, particular on new circuits. Cars are not going to get smaller in the future and already they’re close to the limits on space such that we have cars leaving pit lanes within a meter of personnel on a regular basis.

    1. That’s nonsense, @slowmo.
      These same tracks accommodate other series with twice as many cars on a regular basis. Fields of 30 or more are extremely common, and they all need to pit too.

      F1 doesn’t need more space, they just need to sacrifice their entry and exit to make best use of what space there is in a safe manner.
      Just how long should pit lanes be? They are already vast expanses that negatively affect strategy because they take so long to traverse.
      I don’t know about you – but I want to see more strategic options in F1, not less.

      1. If you feel that’s it’s important to increase the amount of space in the pits, then would you support a reduction in the number of people allowed in it?
        6 people can easily, safely and quickly perform pit stops – 20 is ridiculous. And for what? 2-3 seconds difference?

        1. I think less people outside the garage during a race is a perfectly sensible suggestion to improve safety although there may have to be concessions for incidents like a front wing replacement. I don’t see the value to the sport of a sub 2 second pitstop. It’s an impressive spectacle when you see it once then after that it becomes an after thought when watching races. Literally nobody is watching the race to see the pitstops.

          Maybe part of the issue is also down to design of pitlanes on tracks and it’s something that should be reconsidered for the future. If you ran a 2 lane pitlane with garages either side you could halve the pitlane distance. If you positioned the pit lane so it cut out a larger portion of the track such as joining from the last corner into turn 4 or 5 in a circuit you could reduce the cost of the pitstops and hence time lost trundling at low speed.

          Now my example maybe poorly thought out in some other respects of logistics for running garages on either side but the point is that there are other options available for consideration. It’s maybe also about time we start putting some consideration into what future electric vehicles may require in terms of circuits.

          For someone who spends a lot of time on here berating people for not wanting in change in F1 you seem awfully set in your ways yourself.

          1. I totally agree with tracks running a shorter pit lane than equivalent track – however, track owners (and their design contractors) don’t seem to be too fond of the idea. Other than Canada and Silverstone, I can’t think of any F1 circuits right now that have that feature to any meaningful degree (although even Silverstone’s is useless as pit exit is so slow).

            But that’s a strategic issue and doesn’t address Sainz’s (temporary) concern for pit lane safety – which basically revolves around having too much ‘stuff’ in a given amount of space, and not being willing to compensate for it when driving in and out.

            If F1 found it to be a genuine problem, they could play their own part by mandating a smaller maximum car length and turning radius. Will they? Of course not.
            They could also tape down lines along pit lane and forbid anyone or anything from entering another team’s area – including the car, pit equipment and personnel. Enforced with severe penalties on safety grounds, of course, because safety is paramount.

            Regardless, the track is the track – in all cases not owned or operated by F1 – and so F1 needs to fit into the facilities the track offers. Or not go there if they deem it to be unsuitable.
            For the same reason, F1 needs to accept the compromises that are being made at tracks that also feature other series (such as MotoGP or GT cars) and that they won’t always be the perfect place for what F1 has become.

        2. I would very much like to see the six-people rule applied, and it is quite workable, even for things like the nose change. The fewer people there are in the pit lane, the less chance there is of an accident. As Slowmo says, two second pit stops are not great for the sport. If stops for tyre changes took longer, there is more argument for doing fewer stops during the race, so more chance of teams adopting different strategies. Teams on different strategies would also mean less crowded pit lanes, on average, so again it is safer.

    2. Please remember that the unsafe release is not an error by the driver, they cannot see anything in those mirrors, it is down to the man holding the board who signals to the driver to leave the pit.

  5. S, taping out lines is a really interesting idea. When Sainz ran over the McLaren wheel gun, I wondered who was at fault, Sainz for running over it, or McL for leaving it on the ground, and I tended to side with Sainz on that one. I couldn’t see any valid reason for wheelguns being left on the ground. Same with the way teams have to lift the hoses out of the way. Do they really need all that stuff out there? It is only there so that teams can do faster pit stops.

    Maybe a better rule would be that the team cannot take anyone or anything out to the pit lane (apart from the stop board man) until the driver is in the box wheels stopped, nose of car touching his stop board, and the driver cannot leave his box until they have cleared again. That would significantly slow down stops, put much less stuff in the pit lane at any one time, and put more space between cars in the pit lane.

    I thought there was a rule about not releasing a car if another car was within a certain distance in the pit lane, not sure the exact distance, but it never seems to be properly enforced. I’d have thought that with all the tech available to F1, it would be easy enough to have sensors for each pit box, to automatically check the release and automatically penalise teams which release incorrectly.

    Here’s another thought. The biggest problems occur when the safety car comes out and everyone piles into the pits to get a free pit stop. What about changing the rule so that the instant the SC comes out, the pit lane speed limit is also reduced from 60 to 40. That would increase the time separation between pit boxes.

    1. Maybe a better rule would be that the team cannot take anyone or anything out to the pit lane (apart from the stop board man) until the driver is in the box wheels stopped, nose of car touching his stop board, and the driver cannot leave his box until they have cleared again.

      Yep. That’s essentially what most major endurance series do – simply for safety reasons.
      Indycar and NASCAR also do (basically) the same thing.
      Pit stop times are still a competition, they just happen over a slightly longer period of time, and with less safety risk.

      What about changing the rule so that the instant the SC comes out, the pit lane speed limit is also reduced from 60 to 40.

      That’s a good call.
      They can still pit and take strategic options, but they can do it with a higher safety margin at such a particularly risky time.

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