Following a series of pit-lane technical blunders and unsafe releases that have characterised the first three races of the 2018 Formula One season, FIA race director Charlie Whiting believes that he has a possible solution to improve pit-lane safety.
In the high-pressured environment of pit-stops, where a sub-three second stop is considered ‘OK’ the FIA has stepped in to review, assess and implement changes, if they deem it possible to improve safety.
McLaren, generally clinical and unruffled when it comes to sending Alonso or Vandoorne back into the fray, were guilty of an unsafe release during a Chinese Grand Prix practice session last weekend, which followed from Ferrari’s problems during the Bahrain GP a week earlier.
Pit mechanic Francesco Cigarini suffered a horrendous leg-break when a sensor failure prompted the unsafe and premature release of Kimi Raikonnen last week.
The incidents occurred despite all ten teams using similar sensor and green light systems. Wheel-gun units contain sensors that tell the pit-crew their wheel change is complete. When all wheel nuts are correctly locked, the driver is released from the pit.
In the Ferrari incident that injured Cigarini, no member of the 20-person pit team noticed the left rear tyre had stuck and was therefore unchanged, prompting the unsafe release.
Whiting wants to improve the process so that there are more parameters for the automated elements to satisfy. Likely tweaking of the rule book may see mandatory twin sensors on all wheel guns, measuring both torque and position of the nut, ensuring any cross-threading is identified pre-release.
“I think we can introduce a few things to improve, to decrease the likelihood of mistakes, yes.” Whiting said, as per Autosport. “I think we have learned something. We need to again analyse things to ensure that what we do, we do it precisely to make sure everyone is able to follow that.”
Neither Haas, who dropped valuable points in the Australian GP, nor the McLaren team use twin-sensor guns.
“So, you’re using two sensors to tell the operator it’s actually done up, he presses a button, both jacks drop and the car goes,” Whiting added.
But Whiting was equally keen to say that individual systems were fine as long as the gun operator knows his wheel is securely fastened.
“I don’t think we need to standardise it. We need to make sure that among other things there is no possibility for the guy to give the OK until those two conditions have been met.”
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