McLaren performs 800 practice pit-stops
4 July 2012 – In a bid to dial out the pit-stop problems which have plagued McLaren so far this season, the team carried out no less than 800 trial runs on Monday. So far in 2012, the cars of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have both been affected by pit lane issues.
The most common problem to date has been sticking wheel guns, but McLaren has also encountered difficulties with its jacks. In Barcelona, an errant wheel was misplaced which Hamilton duly struck on his way back out of the man-made box.
“We already had the fastest stationary time in Montreal and improved that in Valencia with the 2.6-second stop,” Sporting Director Sam Michael proudly states. “We can definitely go further again…our internal target is to achieve three-second pit-stops consistently; for consistency it’s important to have good equipment, but it’s also working on your people.”
Having carried on detailed analysis on personnel, including a complete pit crew reshuffle ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, McLaren has also organised training schemes at the English Institute of Sport in order to fine-tune choreography routines.
“Working in a pit-stop is like being a goalkeeper in a football match,” Michael continues. “Nobody really cares about it until it really matters and you have to deliver. You don’t have the ability to win a race but you do have the ability to lose one. Everyone has similar pains. Look at Red Bull in Montreal - they had a problem with a front-right tyre.”
In Valencia last weekend, Lewis Hamilton crucially lost position to eventual winner Fernando Alonso as he was left sitting in the pit lane with another wheel problem. It is conceivable that, had this not happened, he would never have been dicing with Pastor Maldonado – a battle which led to a collision and the Englishman’s retirement from the race.
“We identified the problem in Valencia and why that failed and the design has been modified for Silverstone,” Michael continues. “On Monday this week, we completed 800 pit-stops on the jacking systems with no faults at all. During a race weekend we would probably do about 50 pit stops, including all of the practices, so effectively we did 16 Grand Prix weekends on Monday. We believe that we have solved it, but at least we have done good due diligence on the new design we have got for Silverstone.”
McLaren now takes centre stage for the British Grand Prix, which it last won in 2008 when Hamilton dominated a wet race to win by over one minute. Similar conditions are on offer this weekend, with various intensities of rain plus thunderstorms on the cards.