Formula One teams consider minimum pit-stop times

Opinions differ on how to improve safety in the pit-lane environment but so far there has been no general consensus on the best way forward

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 5:48am

Formula One team managers discussed introducing a minimum pit-stop time, without reaching agreement, as pit lane safety remained a hot topic in the build-up to the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The sport's governing body did, however, relax a ban on television reporters and photographers working from the pit lane during practice.

A driver who is released from the pits with a loose wheel on his car will be handed a 10-place grid penalty from Hungary onwards.

The pit-lane speed limit has also been reduced from 100km/h to 80km/h in practice sessions as well as the race.

The tighter measures have been imposed after Red Bull released Australian Mark Webber's car during the race in Germany this month without securing his rear right wheel, which bounced off and hit a cameraman.

Webber, who is leaving Formula One at the end of the season to drive sports cars with Porsche, said he had texted cameraman Paul Allen - recovering from a broken collarbone and ribs - since Germany.

"He's in sensational spirits. It's good that he's a bit of an old warrior, he's not precious. He's a good lad and knows none of it was done through anything intentional," Webber said.

"We all dodged a bullet that day and all of us were thinking of his health and it's great that he's relatively OK."

Despite the Nuerburgring incident, the Australian doubted slower pit stops would make much of a difference and felt there was an element of media hysteria.

"I think there still needs to be a competition in the pit lane," he said.

Pit stops have become far quicker in Formula One since refuelling was outlawed, with Red Bull changing the tyres in a record 2.05 seconds during this year's Malaysian Grand Prix and all teams seeking to shave off precious fractions.

Previously, mechanics would change tyres and wait for refuelling to finish before the car was released.

The shorter turn-around times have led to increasing concern that pit crew are under too much pressure and may be more prone to making mistakes as a result.

"I don't think anyone would disagree with improving safety, teams, drivers, media, promoters. But it is difficult to find an agreement on the way to do it," said Ferrari's double world champion Fernando Alonso.

"If they find a solution to increase the pit-stop time to improve safety and it is the same for all the teams, I think no one will disagree."

McLaren's Jenson Button said he would advocate a return to refuelling, with new technology to limit the dangers that go with it, but Webber thought the lightning-fast stops were an important part of the show.

"I think it's a sensational talking point," he said, even if he recognised it had little relevance to road cars and the average motorist's experience of a visit to the tyre shop.

"When they can turn a car around that quickly it's a great advert for the sport. It's another part of our operation to show how performance-oriented we are.

"It's impressive. A lot of people talk about that when they are in the garage and they see a Formula One car come in and disappear. The difference between two seconds and three seconds is still impressive."