F1 pit stops: rules of the pit lane and stop, crew roles - who had the longest pitstop in Formula 1 history?

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Everything you need to know about pitstop rules in F1

The 2023 Formula One season is well underway and we have witnessed Red Bull go from strength to strength as both drivers have already registered wins so far. Ferrari will be forced to play catch up if Charles Leclerc or Carlos Sainz has any hope of winning a race, let alone the Championship while McLaren appear to be spending a phenomenal amount of time in the pit lanes at present.

Pit stops are a fundamental and essential part of a Formula 1 race. They can often make or break a weeend - as Daniel Ricciardo once found out in Monaco.

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Teams will spend hours practicising how to reduce pit stop times and Red Bull are usually one of the quickest teams to compete the procedure with the majority of stops happening well inside two seconds.

Here is all you need to know about pit stops in Formula 1...

What is a pit stop?

A pit stop is when the car runs through the pit lane, located parallel to the start/finish line, and mechanics can change the tires, adjust the car’s front and rear wings as well as potentially quickly refuelling, cleaning up air ducts of the chassis and the brakes if there is any debris.

At least one pit stop in every race is compulsory. Drivers must use at least two tire compounds during an F1 race. Teams have five types of tires available: softs, mediums, hards, intermediates and wets. The two-tire rule is only altered when it comes to a wet race. Drivers do not have to pit to change tires in wet conditions and generally, intermediates and wets could last for a whole race if the track were to stay wet.

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What are the pit lane rules?

When entering and exiting the pit lane, each competitior cannot go above 80km/h or they will receive a penalty, as Esteban Ocon did in his first race of the year. Drivers will also receive a penalty if they are found to have lef their pit box in an unsafe manner.

Each car has a button on the steering wheel that limits its speed in the pit lane and one last rule which all drivers must pay attention to is that you are not allowed to reverse in the pit lane. No car can be reversed using its own power in the pit lane, however the team is allowed to push it backwards physically.

Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes have longest recorded pit stop in historyValtteri Bottas and Mercedes have longest recorded pit stop in history
Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes have longest recorded pit stop in history | Getty Images

The pit crew must be wearing the appropriate safety gear, notably a helmet which meets FIA regulations. The pit crew is only allowed to come out onto the inner pit lane immediately before their driver arrives and they will change tires, make aerodynamic adjustments and make minor repairs. Fuel used to be added in pit stops but today each car carries enough fuel to get through an entire race.

What’s the longest pit stop in F1 history?

Mercedes dominated the turbo hybrid era of Formula 1, winning eight consecutive constructors championships from 2014. However, they unfortunately also hold a very unwanted record for the longest pit stop in Formula 1 folklore. In 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas was called in for a change of tyres but the pit crew was unable to change the front right tyre as the wheel nut simply didn’t come off.

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This one-wheel nut led to the end of the race for the Finnish driver and Mercedes were forced to retire the car. The team only managed to take out the wheel nut with special equipment at the factory two days after the race, thus making this the longest pit stop in Formula 1 history with a total time of 43 hours and 15 minutes registered.

The second longest is only a minute and 12 seconds long. Of course, every second counts in F1, but there is such a huge gap between the first and second longest. At the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix, Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello had a great chance of winning the race but Ferrari decided to double stack him and Michael Schumacher but despite calling both drivers in, the pit crew did not have any tyres ready. Barrichello was sent back out on the track one minute 12 seconds later and this mistake costed him a race win.

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