10 Ways to Make F1 Pit Stops Safer

This post should allow mobile users to see the slideshow I put up this morning.

Once again the F1 supremo has spoken and once again he has decided the best way to save the little people  is to save them from themselves. I’m not saying Red Bull, or any other team should be singled out for punishment when someone is injured in the pit lane. The pit lane and the pre-race grid walk are dangerous places to work and spectate. The fact that F1 organizers have so quickly and unilaterally removed journalists (camera people) from the pit lane reveals, well… …I don’t need to say what it reveals, it’s obvious. They are the people with the power. This is not a news gathering environment. At this point, it’s barely a spectating environment.

I’m an advocate for safety but there are two chronic lies we keep telling ourselves about safety in motorsport. First, that safety has improved uniformly through out the ranks. This is patently false. The big dollar series are able to apply big dollar fixes to safety issues. And secondly, the moneyed few have used “safety” every chance they could to lie to themselves and further distance themselves from the filthy stinking masses (IE. the paying spectators.)

In the early 80’s,  I think I paid $10.00 for a pit pass (on top of the price of my weekend ticket.) I had the pleasure of strolling virtually unmolested through what felt like the vast confines of Cobo Hall at the Detroit GP. I chatted with some of the crew members of various teams. Gordon Murray walked by, followed by Jean Pierre Jarier. Maybe they were harassed to distraction at European races, but in the USA, basically no one recognized them. Now, it sounds like not even journalists will have that kind of access to F1 teams. At what point does it all become too absurd to bother?

Anyway, here’s the list:

F1 Pit Stop 2013

Option #10: Limit the number of crew members allowed over the wall for a pit stop. This is a rule used to make pit stops safer for everyone in the pitlane in NASCAR and USAC. Do 20 crew members attacking the car make for a safer more controlled pit lane environment, or 3 seconds of organized chaos?



F1 Traditions: No Pit Stops

Option # 9: F1 has traditionally been a sprint race involving no scheduled pit stops. Design tires to last the entire race and change rules to make pit stops too lengthy to be competitive.



NASCAR: Five Lug Nuts

Option #8: Simply mandate a design change to wheel specifications (like the 5 lug nut wheel used in NASCAR) making it virtually impossible for a wheel to fly off in the pit lane. A double locking center wheel nut would work.



NASCAR: Official Oversight

Option #7: NASCAR officials watch over every pit stop and strict rules are enforced about what the limited number of crew members can and can not do. Minor infractions, like losing a wheel in the pits, result in big penalties. OK, so maybe I am suggesting harsher penalties for teams that screw up.



Le Mans Pit Rules for Equipment

Option #6: Limit the equipment allowed to be carried over the wall. At Le Mans and in ALMS, limited air wrenches can be used during a pit stop. This slows everything down.



Option #5: Limits on Procedures

Option #5: Le Mans also controls pit procedures. Tire changes can not be performed simultaneously with refueling. Slower is safer, especially in a congested pit area.



Pit Lane Speed Limits are Universal

Option #4: F1 needs to look outside it’s own little box for simple safety solutions. A few years ago, mandatory speed limits seemed radical, now every professional series mandates speed limits. Perhaps a minimum time for a pit stop to ensure safety must be mandated. This could also assist in safer release into the pit lane by the lollipop person.



Indy Car Crew Position Rules

Option #3: Limiting the start position of crew members to avoid equipment being run over, USAC and IndyCar slow the overall pit stop and makes only one tire change (the outside rear in this case) critical. Perhaps similar positional restrictions could be made to make F1 pit stops longer and safer.



A Return to Refueling

Option #2: As much as refueling creates its own inherent risk, it slows the overall pit stop. Gravity fuel flow, further slows the procedure while eliminating the risk of high pressure fuel spills. Maybe not ideal, but teams would no longer be able to get in and out of the pits in 3 seconds.



Will The Rules Be Evenly Applied?

Option #1: The grid is perhaps the only place in F1 more dangerous than the pits, with cars driving in and around the knees of royalty, celebrities and fancy dress grid girls. How is F1 going to get the house of Grimaldi in full face helmets and balaclavas?

So that’s it. Ten ideas, none original, that should be brought into the discussion of making F1 pit stops safer for everyone, not just the media.

Images used whenever possible with the consent of the image provider. If you are aware of an image being used without credit or incorrectly, please contact the F1Jester immediately. Thank You – La Gerencia


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