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  • Writer's pictureShayna McCaffrey

The history of Formula One pitstops

The pitstops in Formula One have changed drastically since its inception back in 1950. Safety has improved, and with it, the pitstops. Let's take a look at the changes throughout the decades.
 

Starting off in 1950, pitstops usually consisted of the familiar tyre change, however, it was much slower. Back in the 50s, tyre changes were around 25-30 seconds long as opposed to today's 1.82, as per Red Bull. Along with this, refuelling was allowed. Risks came along with refuelling mid-race, such as the heat from the engines making the fuel very flammable and often causing fires where some drivers could sustain injuries and even some resulting in loss of life.


Donnington Park held their first Grand Prix back in 1935 and with it, the first pitstop. Fans highly anticipated it, hearing of the precision of Mercedes, and watched as the car stopped and was swarmed by the pit crew, changing the tyres quickly and pumping fuel into the tank at five gallons a second.


Refuelling and tyre changes remained more or less the same in the decades following, and rules for pitstops weren't as strict as today's. Pitstops changed from 30 seconds to 20 seconds, and as the years went on, right down to 10 seconds. Refuelling, however, still remained a safety concern as not only drivers were endangered but also the pit crew. Quite possibly the most infamous incident was that of Jos Verstappen in the 1994 German Grand Prix in Hockenheim, where the car burst into flames with the fuel pump having an issue. Or Felipe Massa's infamous incident during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, where the fuel pump got stuck in the car as Felipe drove off.


The refuelling rule was banished momentarily from 1984 until 1993. During this time, there were many refuelling incidents, causing the FIA to ban refuelling once again in 2009, this time for good. Instead, regulations were updated that teams needed to make upgrades to the cars in order to carry more fuel; enough for the entire race and enough to have some left in the tank to be tested at the end of the Grand Prix.


The amount of crew used in the pitstops has changed drastically too. There are now up to 20 people working on one car at a time, and sometimes, each driver will have a different crew for their pitstops.


Now fast forwarding to the pitstops of today. Pitstops are obviously much quicker as opposed to back in 1950, and almost everything has changed. From the amount of pit crew to the tyres. The time it takes to complete a pitstop has changed too, with a pitstop usually only being over 20 seconds if a front wing needs to be changed or a complication with the pitstop presents itself.

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