Analysis: Red Bull and Ferrari are quickest in the pit lane

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During the opening 12 races of the 2023 F1 season, Red Bull have been the fastest not only on the race track, but also when it came to pit stop performance. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó reflects teams’ performance in the pitlane across the first half of the 2023 F1 season.

A Formula 1 pit stop revolves around a perfectly-placed stopping, changing tyres and seamless accelerating away.

The history of F1 pit stops is almost as old as the sport itself. It dates back to the 1950s when they were primarily used for refueling. In the 1960s, pit stops began to include tyre changes and minor repairs. By the 1980s, pit stops had become a vital part of F1 racing when complex strategies also started to emerge.

While refuelling was permitted from the 1994 season to the 2009 season, pit stops generally lasted for six to twelve seconds. It meant that mechanics had more than enough time to fit new tyres on cars.

However, mid-race refuelling was banned in 2010 which prompted teams to revise their pit stop procedures. The primary purpose of pit stops have been changing tyres with minor crashes sometimes also forcing mechanics to replace the nose and front wing assembly during pit stops.

Teams have constantly worked on their pit stop performance, updating not only their hardware, but also fine-tuning the positioning and harmony between the mechanics. A pit stop typically takes 2 to 3 seconds to complete.

Today’s pit stops involve a large group of people. The number of people who directly work on or around the car is 19. There are mechanics responsible for wheel-off, wheel-on, and gunners, front and rear jack, two wing adjust, two stabilisers and traffic light controller.

Furthermore, there are people standing in front of the garage, poised with side jacks and with fire extinguishers. However, there are further team members who play a pivotal part in a perfect pit stop. Strategists determine the timing of the stop; the race engineer delivers tyre and wing adjust information and the team manager calling the crew out into the box.

There are alternates for every spot who train for the day when the primary is ill or injured.

Who has achieved best so far this year?

Red Bull Racing hold the current world record for the fastest pit stop, with a 1.82-second stop performed at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix on Max Verstappen's car. However, pit stops have become slower in recent years.

The reason for that was the new generation cars, which were introduced at the start of the 2022 F1 season, are heavier than ever before and tyres have also grown from 13 inches to 18 inches, adding to the weight factor. No team was able to crack the two-second threshold for pit stops until the closing stages of the season.

In the end, McLaren delivered the fastest tyre change when they serviced Daniel Ricciardo’s car at the Mexico Grand Prix within 1.98s.

For this year, things have become even more complicated as tyres became even heavier than before. It is understood that the front tyres increased 500g each, with the rears adding a further 200g each for a total of 1.4kg weight increase.

Ferrari had started the new season strongly with completing the fastest pit stop in the season-opening race in Bahrain with a stop of 2.22s. The Scuderia was able to shave off further thousands of a second in the next race in Jeddah, completing a 2.10s tyre change.

In the subsequent races in Melbourne and Baku, Red Bull proved the fastest, but their times of 2.11s and 2.30s respectively fell short of Ferrari’s performance in Jeddah.

Despite their dismal on-track performance, Ferrari bounced back in Miami to set quickest tyre change with a 2.21s before Red Bull recorded the best pit stop in Monaco with a 2.15s. The contest for the 2023 DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award hotted up again in Barcelona. With a pit stop of 2.07 seconds for Sergio Perez, Red Bull set a new season best.

Montral saw Red Bull complete the best stop with a time of 2.23s. Red Bull Ring marked not only the turning point for McLaren in terms of on-track performance, but that race was also the first time that other than Ferrari or Red Bull completed the quickest pit stop. The Woking-based outfit serviced Lando Norris’ car in just 2.10s which became the fastest tyre change, followed by Alpha Tauri’s performance of 2.28s.

McLaren was able to replicate this performance two weeks later in Silverstone, recording a best of 2.23s. The Hungarian Grand Prix was a turning point in the fight for the 2023 DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award as Red Bull set a new benchmark. Sergio Perez's pit stop time of 1.98 seconds was not only the fastest of the Hungarian GP but of the entire season so far.

In the last round ahead of the summer break, Ferrari’s mechanics won the pit stop battle with a time of 2.19 seconds when they serviced Charles Leclerc’s SF23 at the Belgian Grand Prix.