To say that Ferrari has had a dismal Formula One season would be something of an understatement. Where the team seemed capable of competing for a win or two at the end of 2019, the Maranello-based outfit seems to have completely dropped the ball in 2020. Apparently, that is in part down to some faulty pit equipment.
In Bahrain, driver Sebastian Vettel faced a stop over six seconds long, which is absolutely unacceptable in the F1 world, where even a three-second stop is considered an eternity. It’s an even more painful blow when you consider the fact that Ferrari hasn’t had a ton of on-track pace this year, which means it hasn’t been able to recover from the bad stops.
The team has admitted that 20 percent of its stops this year have taken over 3.5 seconds, Motorsport.com reports.
That issue has, apparently, come down to a wheel nut problem. From Diego Ioverno, Ferrari’s vehicle operation engineer:
It’s true that the number of stops over 3.5 seconds is too high by the Scuderia’s past standards, but the vast majority of times that there has been a less than optimal stop, it has been down to a specific problem linked to the wheel nut.
The thread is not strong enough and so the nut has stripped several times. It’s a reliability problem we are working hard on to fix for next year.
When the guys feel, even unconsciously, that they are using a component that is more at risk, with a margin of error for engaging the wheel-gun that is much smaller, that has a negative effect on the whole procedure.
That can be seen from the fact that for us, an average time for a good pitstop is 2.73 seconds, which means there is room for improvement there too.
That’s not ideal. You need your equipment in pristine order to gain any advantage in F1. One issue in one piece of equipment can make a disaster of the entire race.
Ioverno also noted another issue that I’ve speculated could be a problem: the pit crew is pretty new. When you have a relatively untried team under your belt with little time to practice outside of a race weekend due to COVID-19 restrictions, then you’ve got a recipe for disaster. If one person doesn’t gel with the rest, you have a similar problem to the wheel nut issue: a slow pit stop.
However, I’m still a little skeptical that this is the extent of the problem. Last season, Ferrari had a ton of different problems under its belt. If something wasn’t wrong with the car, something was wrong with a driver. Every weekend was a different issue. So, while there’s obviously something very wrong with the pit stops, the problems may run even deeper than Ferrari will admit.