The FIA has delivered a complex new technical directive to the teams that is likely to slow pit stop times as it removes potential areas of automation.
Pit stop times have dropped to around the two-second mark, with Red Bull holding the world record and regularly registering stops under two seconds. However, the FIA has now issued a technical directive that is centered on areas of the process that might have become automated, with the governing body concerned it could lead to dangerous errors.
To that end, human reaction time tolerances are being built into pit stops in a similar way to the gap between the lights going out and a car moving to judge a jump start, and Christian Horner believe his team is being targeted.
“The technical directive is certainly very wordy and you’d almost have to question whether it’s a change of regulation,” Horner said. “But I suppose we have been very competitive, we’ve got the world record on pit stops. We’ve had the majority of the fastest stops, and it’s not by accident.
“I find it a little disappointing because it’s the duty of the competitor to make sure that the car is safe. The penalty for a wheel not being fixed is that you have to stop the car immediately, so it’s a brutal punishment if you haven’t got all four wheels securely and safely fastened.
“So what the technical directive is trying to achieve, I’m not quite sure. I think there’s an awful lot of complexity to it. Of course when you are in a competitive situation, if you can’t be beaten, then the most obvious thing is for your competitors to try and slow you down. And that’s obviously what’s happening here.”
The technical directive includes a minimum of 0.2s between the front jack being alerted that all four wheels are securely fitted and the driver getting the green light to leave the pits, and Horner believes it could even make situations more dangerous.
“I think it’s already slowed pit stops this year, after the earlier discussions and directives that have been on the pit stops and I think to have to hold the car for two tenths of a second, you can almost argue it’s dangerous because you are judging the gaps and the guy releasing the car is having to make that judgment. I think it’s not been well thought through.
“F1 is about innovation and seeing pit stops at sub-two seconds is a remarkable feat and we should be encouraging it, not trying to control it. Otherwise, where does it stop? We are going to be told which way to walk into the garage, where we should sit on the pit wall and which buttons we should press I guess.”
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) April 14, 2021
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff confirmed his team had inquired about the legality of certain methods during pit stops to understand if it could do the same.
“We inquired with the FIA on a safety mechanism which is related to a system that we were using and whether that could be optimized,” Wolff said. “That happened, I would say, three or four weeks ago and it was a technology question. Did that trigger anything else? Maybe, I don’t know, but this is the question we’ve asked.”