Wearing their fireproof suits and helmets, with their faces hidden from the limelight. Pit crews make the most crucial decisions that determine whether their team finishes in 1st or 10th position. Through the hottest of days and coldest of nights, the pit crew supports their team and drivers in the pursuit of the many various coveted world championship titles.
Most casual fans have always been wanting to know more about their specific roles but have never really understood it because pit stops happen so quickly that it becomes a challenge keeping up with the action with the naked eye. So, here’s a full breakdown of what pit crews actually do.
At the top of the pit crew there’s the crew chief, he runs the entire pit garage that the team is assigned to before the race. Working alongside the engineers and mechanics, he does it all, from troubleshooting the car to planning the strategy for the entire race.
The car chief oversees all the changes that happen to the car, and receives feedback from everyone including the drivers. The car chief then decides if the tires are worn out and need a change, the kind of tires that are best suited for the track, and even tweaks the aerodynamics of the car during the pit stop. He plans this all before the car comes into the pit, and makes quick decisions that may influence the entire race.
During the pit stop, there will be two jack men to lift the car up for a quick tire change if required. The front jack man is the most dangerous position to be in, as it requires standing directly in front of the car as it enters its pit stop. It is also because of this high level of trust amongst the team members that everyone is able to work with such efficiency and precision.
The job of the gas man and gas catch man is purely to refuel the car in the pit stop. Making sure the tank is full without overflowing is the key to their jobs because an overflow in the pits could quickly turn into a disastrous explosion.
Changing the tires is normally the fastest and most intriguing process, with four three-men teams at each corner of the car working together. One man on each corner uses a powerful wheel gun to remove the nut as quickly as possible while the others stand beside in preparation for swapping out the old set of tires for the new.
Running the risk of anything catching fire is highly likely during a pit stop, as teams try to get their cars back on the tracks as soon as possible. With high powered machines such as the wheel gun, and fuel catch working together, there is also a dedicated safety man, watching the action and standing by with a fire extinguisher in hand to readily put out any fires before it gets out of hand.
Depending on the event, the average time of a pit stop can be anywhere from 2-5 seconds (F1), or 12-16secs (NASCAR). This is due to the different rulesets implemented throughout the different events, and as such certain pit stops take longer than others.
As a whole, the team plans strategies ahead of races, taking into account every minor detail to optimize the car for maximum performance at the different tracks around the world. Thoroughly looking at every single aspect of the race such as the speed at turns and how much tire wear it would cause, the weather conditions and even the fuel consumption and weight of the fuel affecting the cars the pit crew then comes up with a game plan that is both firm, but flexible enough that they are able to perform on-the-fly pit stops.
It is only through trust, discipline and drilling are pit crews able to fully support world class drivers in their chase for world titles. Pushing the envelope with their passion and knowledge at every event, these group of unique individuals play a crucial role in races from start to finish.