The power of the pitstop – don’t look for a silver bullet

Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria. Sunday 3 July 2016. Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW38 Mercedes, makes a pit stop during the race. Photo: Glenn Dunbar/Williams ref: Digital Image _V2I3984
Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria.
Sunday 3 July 2016.
Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW38 Mercedes, makes a pit stop during the race.
Photo: Glenn Dunbar/Williams

At the Belgian Grand Prix Williams officially won the 2016 pitstop race by achieving the fastest time in eleven out of thirteen races, with eight more to go before the end of the season. If you’re interested a full breakdown of the fastest times by teams and drivers can be found at:

https://www.formula1.com/content/fom-website/en/championship/awards/dhl-fastest-pit-stop-2016.html

What has been remarkable is the dominance of Williams, in an activity that requires not just technology and investment, but incredible levels of team co-ordination to achieve the fastest time. Officially the fastest time so far in 2016 is 1.92 seconds, this equals the record Red Bull Racing set at the US Grand Prix in 2013, but according to Williams’ measurements the time was 1.89 seconds, making it the fastest F1 pitstop ever by three one hundredths of a second. There’s a great clip on YouTube which compares a 67 second pitstop from Indianapolis in 1950 to Ferrari in Melbourne in 2013.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOJbM0aXZp0

However one of the things that makes Williams’ achievement even more remarkable is that during 2015 their performance was decidedly average, they only achieved the fastest time in one Grand Prix out of 19. So what turned it around? Well according to a piece in the September issue of F1 Racing, as you might expect, the answer is a bit of everything. It required investment in resources and time, focus on the technology and the people to get the whole process to work at a level which other teams have been unable to imitate. They redesigned axles, wheel nuts, jacks and release mechanisms. A full-time human performance specialist is now assigned to the pitcrew in order to study their movements and co-ordination. Sensors provide data on each of the wheel guns and the wheel nuts and the wheels themselves along with video cameras the whole process can be analysed and weak points identified.

It’s the same as the performance of any team or organisation. There is no simple answer, no silver bullet. It requires a clear focus on what they are trying to achieve, with a commitment from senior management to support the process with resources and time. A learning process which uses data to refine and develop the way the team operates. And, perhaps most importantly, a culture of communication and lack of blame, that allows problems to be identified and resolved. The basis of high performance is hard to achieve and therefore hard to copy, congratulations to Williams on becoming the leading pitstop team of 2016.

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