Formula 1 World Champions Mercedes have recognised they need to speed up their pit stops as they wage a tight battle with archrivals Red Bull, who happen to have the fastest crew in the pitlane.
Although they managed the fastest stop of last Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, changing the wheels on Valtteri Bottas’s car in 2.24 seconds in a wet pitlane, they have also lost time with costly errors.
Sunday was the first time since 2018, 42 races ago, that Mercedes had topped the DHL fastest pit stop list.
“It is fair to say that we’re not the best,” trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said on Wednesday in a weekend race debrief on the Mercedes website.
“We are losing time in the pit stops and it is an area that we have been focusing on for a while now.”
An issue with one of the wheel guns slowed seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton, now only a point clear of Red Bull’s race winner Max Verstappen after two rounds, at Imola.
Verstappen had stopped first, at a circuit with a very long pitlane, with Hamilton staying out for another lap and taking over the lead.
A four-second stop and having to wait for Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo to go past before the Mercedes could be released, undid Hamilton’s efforts and kept the Dutchman in front.
Shovlin explained: “For the next stop we actually changed to a different gun and that seemed to resolve that issue. There were some specific instances that affected us in the race in Imola and we will look to work on those.
“Longer-term we are still looking at what we can do with the crew, with the equipment trying to find a bit more time in the stops.”
Red Bull are famously fast in their pit stops, holding the record of 1.82 seconds set in Brazil in 2019. Their best effort at Imola was 2.27 seconds for Verstappen’s car.
In 2020, they delivered the fastest pit stop in 15 of 17 races with nine of them under two seconds.
A nearly 11-second pit stop in the opening race in Bahrain in March wrecked Bottas’s race, with the Mercedes driver a distant third, and was attributed to human error with a mechanic withdrawing the wheelgun too early.
At the same Sakhir track in December, an agonisingly long stop ruined George Russell’s chances of a victory as a stand-in for Hamilton and saw Bottas wait 27 seconds and leave the pits with the same tyres he had come in on.
Mercedes blamed a radio problem for that one and made a dig at themselves days later on social media: “Someone asked us to post the pit stops from Sunday on our Instagram Reels, but Reels can only be the 30 seconds. Sorry.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)