Good, Bad and Downright Mad!
Memorable pit stop moments in the motor sport world…
With the motorsport season in full throttle, 888sport takes a look at pit stops – the great, the terrible and the downright bizarre!
Williams ‘Win’ Without Podium (2016)
Whether tearing up the Blanchimont at Spa or screaming past the iconic main stand at the Daytona 500, a driver is nothing without a loyal pit crew. Naturally, if that loyalty is combined with speed and efficiency, the odds of victory only ever shorten. Speaking of odds, Mercedes look set to carry their dominance of F1 into a new decade according to betting sites. With most of the chasing pack desperate for any sort of recognition, anything as innocuous as a good pit-stop is seen as a moral victory, and the reinforcement of the flagging belief that any team can compete effectively.
Back in the 2016 F1 season, Baku memorably hosted the European Grand Prix for the first time. Every team had a mutual unfamiliarity with the brand-new circuit, and this proved to be a great equaliser that played into the hands of Team Williams. Though still a shadow of their former selves under the ‘big two’ of Ferrari and Mercedes, Williams had enjoyed a decent season, scoring 13 of a possible 14 finishes.
Of those 13 finishes, 12 were enough to score points, with one of them being a podium in the race preceding Baku’s debut – the Canadian Grand Prix. Beneficiary Felipe Massa qualified in fifth, and though he would end the day tenth, his crew made a record-breaking pit stop lasting just 1.92s. Ahead of the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix, that stands as an F1 record, but with engineering skill and tactical genius evolving in tandem with one another all the time, a wheel nut target of around 1.70 is now the aim of constructors with the need for speed. With Williams having previously been notoriously slow in changing wheel nuts, pre-season efforts to improve efficiency were made – and clearly paid dividends.
However, pit stops that make history for the right reasons have a limited audience – after all, the best pit stops last for mere seconds. And so, for most neutral fans, it is the bizarre and the dangerous that truly enthral.
Hungarian Horror Heralds Hardship (2016)
Back in 2016, Nico Rosberg achieved a lifelong dream, overcoming long-term rival and perpetual sports betting favourite Lewis Hamilton to lift the Driver’s Championship.
However, it was a tough journey to the top, and even being partnered with old master Michael Schumacher for the 2010 season could not save him from making the news for the wrong reasons. Overall, it wasn’t just Rosberg that suffered, with Mercedes having the sort of off-day considered unthinkable in the later 2010s.
Vitantonio Liuzzi’s early crash prompted a succession of tyre changes. Rosberg was amongst those that made this decision, and his right rear tyre was improperly attached, with a generally chaotic feel to proceedings behind the scenes. It came loose, span away from the car and hospitalised a mechanic. There was also the surreal sight of Renault driver Robert Kubica being deployed from the pit, straight into Adrian Sutil, for a Force India double retirement. As for Rosberg, the botched wheel change marked the first of what would be two retirements for him in the 2010 season.
Tellingly, Rosberg had reached the podium three times before his Hungaroring retirement, but he would not do so again until his victory at the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix.
Crash Course In Canada Collision Creation (2008)
Right now, there is nobody better than Lewis Hamilton, who was already considered the de-facto winner halfway through 2018. However, his own surge to dominance – albeit one aided by superlative machinery – has not been without some kinks in the road. Back in 2008, Hamilton won his first world title in his sophomore year as a top-flight driver, but he did so by just one point, finishing fifth in the Interlagos finale, with bettors scrambling for a bet calculator to determine their winnings. Even four more titles hence, Hamilton will still be thanking his lucky stars that the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix was not far more consequential.
The farce began when Kimi Räikkönen and Robert Kubica halted at the end of the pit lane, with the exit closed. Still behaving like a rookie at times in 2008, Hamilton failed to notice the red light in time to avoid a collision in the pits. The smash was not nearly as dramatic and dangerous as it could have been, but it was hard enough to force a double retirement – and a ten-place grid penalty for Hamilton for the next round. With a rich injection of young talent within F1 over the last four years, there is every chance that pit stop oddities will become more of a fixture. Even so, it seems as though nobody is immune from the occasional blunder, and it is not just in F1 that pit stops can potentially change the course of a race.
Double Trouble In Transition Time (1991)
Away from F1 racing, 1991 was an important year in the art of pitting during stock car racing events. The 1990 Atlanta Journal 500 saw the death of rear tyre changer Mike Rich after Ricky Rudd’s car became uncontrollable during a pit. Subsequently, several rules were put in place, including the creation of designated times where tyre changes could be performed under normal (green flag) racing conditions.
However, there was still room for some utter madness in the 1991 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Michael Andretti’s routine pit was completed, as he passed by Emerson Fittipaldi, who was unaware that Andretti was approaching. The wheels on each car connected, and Andretti’s car became airborne in the blink of an eye. Though forced to pit again because of the potential damage done, Andretti avoided injury – but speed limits were put in place after this.
‘Mad’ Max Makes His Mark (1996)
Amongst the veritable sea of annual motorsport events that are popular in betting circles, the 24 Hours of Daytona is the event that separates the slightly unhinged from the downright deranged. It is well-known that – not unlike Rosberg’s botched wheel job of 2010 – most endurance competition drivers have quite a few screws loose. However, prior to the evolution of rules packages, nobody fitted that description more than ‘Mad’ Max Papis.
The Italian speedster was prepared to win at any cost, or literally die trying in a sport that has an extensive casualty list. In 1996, the year that saw the tragic death of Scott Brayton at the Indy 500, this was fully in evidence, with Papis in hot pursuit of the leader in that year’s Daytona showpiece. Making his final pit stop, Papis roared into the pits at an estimated 200 mph. Thankfully, he had full control of his car despite his desperation, or an unthinkable tragedy similar to the 1990 Atlanta Journal 500 incident would have unfolded. It was all in vain, as Papis finished second, but nobody had ever seen a driver enter the pits with such ferocious speed. In the aftermath, speed limits on pit lane were imposed, to protect crew members against complete carnage fuelled by an insatiable will to win.