“Pitcrew standby, Ocon is in this lap!”
You have been practicing pit stops so many times that it’s become a muscle reflex. The moment you hear “Pitcrew!” over the radio, the Adrenalin immediately starts pumping around your body and your mind goes into focus mode!
The days up to the race we have been practicing pit stops every single day. From Thursday evening, when the car is finished being build we have the first pitstop practice. Here we get familiar with our surroundings. When you see the mechanics running out to the car during a race and you think that’s purely a coincidence, you better think twice First thing we do is to figure out how to stand, it might seem silly but when it comes to the race there is no time or room for small stupid mistakes or delays. I am rear left wheel off, so usually I am on the left hand side of the garage and am almost the last one to run out. I am making sure my gun man is to my right, together with the wheel on guy. Wheel on runs out first, then gun man, then me and rear jack in the end. In the normal world and at a normal work place small mistakes, or actually they might not even be seen as, as mistakes but they are often not a big deal but in Formula 1 they are not even considered small mistakes, they are just mistakes! In the beginning I couldn’t stop laughing, inside of course, at how annoyed people were if I ran out too early or stood in a different place than I did at last practice. Who cares right? But this is a well choreographed dance and even the smallest moves matter! I quickly learned how important consistency is in order for a pitstop to run smooth!
Friday under Free practice we have Live Pitstop Practice. Thursday we have people pushing the car but Friday it is the actual driver that comes into the box after a session and we do a pitstop like we would under a race. God! My first time doing a live pitstop was intimidating! We might have been doing PSP (pitstop practice) 30 times a day over the winter but that can definitely not compare to the real deal! The car comes at you at approximately 80 km/h (depending on the track) and I can tell you that, that is fast when you just stand there, praying he goes straight into the box and wont hit you,
Saturday we have PSP after FP3, live pitstop, so same way as at Friday and then again Sunday before the race. Sunday PSP is the first where we are in race suit but the car is being pushed not driven,
So, in my last post (loooong time ago, I know and I am sorry!) I talked about the experience on the crazy grid! This is kinda a sequel. As I said last time, after the grid we run back to the garages and put helmets and gloves on immediately! In case there is a crash in first corner we need to be ready. In the garage the chairs have been sat up and our name is on the dedicated chair, If the car doesn’t need to pit, we will now sit down and watch the race on the screen. It’s the first time in a week, where you can sit and relax. It’s kinda “our work is done” its up to the driver now. But you can’t really relax. Your body know what is gonna happens, you don’t know when, but you know it will happened! Then suddenly!
“Pitcrew standby! Ocon is in this lap”
Everyone rises. Wheel on guy’s run over to the wheel and take the blankets off, everyone else runs to their position inside the garage. My heart always goes like crazy at this point. I have done it so many times that week but this is the only time that matters.
“Pitcrew! Come out to the box for Ocon, it will be 4 dry tyres and -2 turns front wing”
Everyone runs out to the box. We take position. Visor down. Ready to go,
“Pitcrew, Ocon is in the pitlane, it will be 4 dry tyres and -2 turns front wing”
You see the car coming down the pitlane. For me it seems like it takes forever! I take a deep breath, trying not to think but just trust my body knows what’s about to happened.
The car passes me and the moment the rear wheel has passed me I swing my right leg in and grab the wheel with both of my hands. I wait, what seems forever but probably is only 0.1 of a second, for the rear jack to lift. The gun man is already on and is undoing the wheel nut. The moment the car starts rising from the ground, I pull the wheel of with every single muscle in my body. Before I’ve even sat down with the wheel between my legs, the wheel is on and the gunman has tightened the nut and the car is gone! You know if it went badly or well right away. It’s hard to explain but if the pitstop Is 0.5sec slower than normal, you feel it
You run back into your seat, take another deep breath and await for the next pitstop.