Getting a driver in and out of the pits in the shortest time possible has become a race within a race for rival teams of F1 engineers.
The current kings of the pit lane is the Williams team.
“The pit stop is the one time the outside world gets to see what a team sport this is — like a lot of things in Formula One it’s just attention to hundreds of details,” Steve Nielsen sporting manager at Williams tells CNN’s The Circuit.
Back when Formula One started in the 1950s things weren’t quite so refined.
Drivers arriving in the pit lane would be met by mechanics in greasy overalls wielding hammers to loosen wheel nuts if a tire needed changing with stops routinely lasting up to a minute.
Today, in F1’s uber-refined pit garages, teams like Williams employ a small army of engineers — 22 in Williams’ case — on race day, collectively springing into action when a driver pits.
“They are a hugely competitive bunch of individuals,” Nielsen says. “They understand that physical fitness, while not the only thing you need, it’s one of the key ingredients that you have to have.”
It takes dozens of hours of practice for the team to get up to speed and a near constant monitoring of performance.
“Whenever we do a pit stop we measure everything,” Nielsen says.
“We measure how long the gun man is on the trigger to get the wheel off, how long it takes a old wheel to come off and a new one to on and then the gun trigger to do it up again. How long the jack takes to drop.
“There is really no where to hide. Much like the driver for the car … every aspect of the pit stop is measured.”
So far, this season has been a clean sweep for Williams who have clocking the fastest time in Australia, China and most recently in Bahrain.
Williams, like all teams, are always fine-tuning the procedures, shaving off precious hundredths of seconds.
“We have so much data — if we take the fastest time of each corner ever achieved we get a time of about 1.6 seconds,” he explains.
“So we know there is a theoretical possibility of going to 1.6 seconds — there’s always something to chip away at.”