Top Five: F1 Pit Stop Failures

8 08 2009

This time it’s Mozza’s request, and he wants my top five pit stop cock ups, so here they are.

1. Eddie Irvine – 1999 European GP

Going into this race the title was on a knife-edge, with Mika Häkkinen and Eddie Irvine tied at the top of the table, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen and David Coulthard only 10 and 12 points behind respectively. With unpredictable weather common at the Nürburgring, nobody was surprised when it started raining. Häkkinen pitted for wet tyres, which turned out to be the wrong decision. Irvine, who qualified ninth was now in a position to take advantage and score some vital points, he chose correctly to pit for dry tyres, but his team-mate Mika Salo pitting unexpectedly with a broken front wing the lap before unsettled the Ferrari crew. Irvine lost 28 seconds as the team failed to have the right-rear tyre ready for him (2.10 and 6.20 in the video). Irvine finished just outside the points in seventh, and ultimately lost the title by just two points, making this failure number one (you finally won Eddie!).

2. Christijan Albers – 2007 French GP

At number two, for sheer stupidity we have Albers. Driving around at the back of the field, as usual, you’d think that there would be little for Albers to get stressed about, but clearly, he was thinking of more important things. His decision to drive off before being released and with the fuel rig still attached, resulted in him receiving a €5000 fine for dangerous driving, losing a fair amount of sponsorship which, in turn, led to him losing his drive after just one more race. Niki Lauda said it was the stupidest thing he’d ever seen in F1, at least Chrstijan achieved something.

3. Felipe Massa – 2008 Singapore GP

Sorry about the Japanese nonsense on screen, but that cockpit view is the important part. Ferrari, in their infinite wisdom, had decided that an automated traffic light system was quicker (and therefore better) than a traditional “lollipop”, here we see why it is just plain stupid. Massa pits from the lead, get’s a green light, so naturally goes for it, but something is just a bit amiss. Like Albers (above), he still has the fuel rig attached, Massa is smart enough however, to stop before the end of the pit lane, allowing some of the team’s mechanics to run and take the rig off. Massa’s race was scuppered though, he lost a chunk of time due to the incident, and as his release was dangerous (being released into the path of Adrian Sutil, rather than dragging a fuel hose), he was hit with a drive-through penalty. Massa finished out of the points and lost the title by a point. Disaster.

4. Jos Verstappen – 1994 German GP

You might think this one is a bit of an odd addition, but I include it because the fire was the team’s fault. Refuelling was reintroduced to F1 in the 1994 season (and will sadly disappear for 2010), and to keep things as safe as possible, the FIA supplied identical rigs for each team from Intertechnique with strict instructions not to modify them. Benetton ignored that, they had worked out a way to get a 12% faster flow rate. Verstappen’s fire was caused by fuel spilling onto the exhausts due to a failure to seal with the car properly, this was due to debris in the seal mechanism, the only way debris could have got in was if the team removed a filter. Five mechanics received burns, as did Verstappen because his visor was open.

5. Nick Heidfeld – 2007 Spanish GP

This video filled by a spectator gives us a good look at what went wrong for Heidfeld. The driver’s front-right wheel hasn’t been secured properly, and failing to notice that the man on the wheelgun hasn’t raised his hand, the lollipop man releases Heidfeld. Immediately realising something is wrong, Heidfeld stops,causing his wheelnut to go rolling into the hands of a Toyota mechanic (that’s what he’s waving about and hands to the rather apathetic BMW mechanics). Rather than do anything about it at that moment, Heidfeld is inexplicably ordered to complete one very slow lap before coming back into the pits to have the wheel secured. Madness.




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