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Pit Stops Gone Wrong: 10 Famous Gaffes in the Pit Lane

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2014

Pit Stops Gone Wrong: 10 Famous Gaffes in the Pit Lane

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    Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

    Formula One teams have turned pit stops into an art form.

    Red Bull currently hold the record for the fastest time to change all four of a car's tyres, an absurdly rapid 1.923 seconds.

    McLaren did a five-wheel pit stopall four tyres and the steering wheelin just 3.3 seconds in 2012. Even non-fans are impressed by how quickly everything is done.

    But in such a pressurised environment, things inevitably go wrong from time to time.

    Here are 10 examples of what can happen when a pit stop doesn't quite go as planned.

Jerome D'Ambrosio Gets in a Spin: Hungarian Grand Prix 2011

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    Jerome D'Ambrosio had a short and largely uneventful career in F1. Most fans won't remember him in 20 years.

    Those that do will most clearly recall the magnificent pit lane pirouette he performed during the 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix.

    Rain was falling and D'Ambrosio was called in to change to intermediates. Unfortunately, someone had painted a huge blue strip along the length of the pit lane, and this was even slipperier than the rest of the track.

    D'Ambrosio put his right-front tyre on the blue, lost control and went into a spin. His mechanics got out of the way sharpish, and the car came to a halt having somehow not hit anything.

    He got going again and finished the race in 19th.

The Frying Finns: Brazilian Grand Prix 2009

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    The drivers can't really see what's going on during a pit stop and have to rely on either a lights system or the traditional lollipop man.

    In the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, Heikki Kovalainen's lollipop man inexplicably thought the stop was over and indicated the Finn should leave.

    Kovalainen obliged, but his mechanics hadn't finished refuelling his car. One was sent flying and the fuel hose was ripped from its mounting. It trailed along behind the car, spewing fuel everywhere.

    Kimi Raikkonen had the misfortune of being right behind the McLaren, and the heat of his exhausts ignited the fuel. For a few seconds his car was engulfed in flames.

    The Brawn mechanics at the end of the pit lane were kind enough to take the fuel hose off Kovalainen's car and both men carried on, with Raikkonen finishing sixth.

    Alternative views here and here.

Lewis Hamilton Goes Home: Malaysian Grand Prix 2013

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    When you've spent your whole career at one team, moving to another can be a trying experience.

    Lewis Hamilton was driving only his second race for Mercedes after leaving McLaren when he was called in to change to slicks. He trundled down the pit lane, spotted his mechanics and turned in to his box.

    Only it wasn't his box anymore.

    Fans around the world burst out laughing as the McLaren mechanics frantically waved at him to get out of the way.

    He stopped at his new team a few doors down, was quickly serviced and finished third.

Jack Man Faceplant: San Marino Grand Prix 2000

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    Even the best drivers make mistakes sometimes.

    During free practice for Ferrari's home race at Imola in 2000, Michael Schumacher came in to finish a run.

    Perhaps trying out a new braking point for the race, he came in a bit too fast. The front jack man admirably remained at his post and didn't let go of the jack even as his face plummeted towards the nose cone of the F1-2000.

    It must have hurt, but how many of us will be able to tell our grandchildren that we once got run over by Michael Schumacher?

     

    Strictly speaking this one wasn't a pit stop, but I couldn't leave it out.

David Coulthard's Career Low: Australian Grand Prix 1995

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    David Coulthard was leading the 1995 Australian Grand Prix and needed a quick stop to retain the lead. He didn't even make it into the pit lane.

    It's much better to think of this one as a plain and simple driver error, because it's so much funnier that way.

    Sadly, the true cause was a bit less clear.

    When Coulthard came off the accelerator, he was in too high a gear for the corner. The engine increased the revs to stop itself stalling, which increased his speed.

    On the slippery track, he couldn't slow down quickly enough, and understeered into the wall.

    But that's still kind of a driver error, isn't it?

Lewis Hamilton Runs a Red Light: Canadian Grand Prix 2008

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    Other drivers have had difficulty exiting the pits.

    At the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, Adrian Sutil's car failed and then caught fire. The safety car was deployed, wiping out Lewis Hamilton's fairly commanding lead.

    Nearly everyone rushed into the pits, and a sluggish stop by McLaren saw Hamilton drop behind Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica as they headed for the exit.

    Because the safety car "train" was still passing by the pit exit, the little-used red light was on at the end of the pit lane. Raikkonen and Kubica stopped as required.

    Hamilton and future team-mate Nico Rosberg didn't.

    First, Hamilton slid into the back of Raikkonen, taking both out of the race. Then Rosberg came along and lost his front wing on the rear of Hamilton's McLaren.

    Raikkonen wasn't best pleased, but Kubica took advantage to claim his only F1 win.

Cameraman Hit by Mark Webber's Wheel: German Grand Prix 2013

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    Often, pit lane mistakes are at least a little bit amusing. This one was downright terrifying.

    The Red Bull mechanics, usually known for their lightning-fast stops, were struggling to secure Mark Webber's right-rear wheel. As they were working on it, the signal was given for him to leave.

    As the Australian set off, the wheel detached and started rolling at speed down the pit lane.

    It hit a wheel gun on the floor and bounced up, striking cameraman Paul Allen.

    He suffered a broken collarbone and ribs but was otherwise alright.

    Webber, who had looked on course to challenge for the race win, recovered to seventh.

Felipe Massa's Hose Nightmare: Singapore Grand Prix 2008

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    Felipe Massa was leading the Singapore Grand Prix when Nelson Piquet Jr. intentionally crashed into a wall, bringing out the safety car.

    The Ferrari driver pitted, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen queuing up behind.

    His team were using a lights system, rather than the traditional lollipop man. Massa's mechanics were still refuelling the car when the lights turned green, and the Brazilian drove out, taking the fuel hose with him.

    He had to stop at the end of the pit lane, and by the time Ferrari personnel ran down to remove the hose he'd lost a lot of time. A certain points finish and possible win was lost.

    Massa later came second in the championship, just one point behind winner Lewis Hamilton.

Minardi Do Everything Wrong: Argentine Grand Prix 1998

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    Minardi signed the somewhat-unready 19-year-old Esteban Tuero for the 1998 season, and in his third race he featured in one of the daftest pit stops of recent years.

    Most pit lane mishaps are down to a single thing going wrong, but this one has it all.

    No tyres were ready when he came in and the fuel hose wouldn't go on properly.

    When the tyres did turn up, they ended up in the wrong place.

    After a stationary time in excess of 40 seconds, he needed a push to get going again.

    And to top it off, this happened during Tuero's home race.

    A version with suitable musical accompaniment is available here.

Jos Verstappen's Fiery Horror: German Grand Prix 1994

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    The Granddaddy of them all.

    In 1994, Benetton were a little bit creative with the rules.

    Refuelling had been reintroduced at the start of the season. Benetton removed a safety filter from their hoses, allowing fuel to flow into the car faster. It was illegal to do this, but checks weren't as rigid in those days.

    At that year's German Grand Prix, Jos Verstappen stopped on Lap 15. The fuel hose didn't go on properly, and the highly flammable liquid sprayed all over the place. The heat from the engine cover ignited the fuel.

    The huge fireball that resulted caused minor burns to Verstappen and several team members.

    But had fire protective clothing for pit crews not been made mandatory at the start of the season, it could have been a lot worse.

    It couldn't be confirmed with absolute certainty that the team's filter-fiddling had caused the fire, but it can't have helped.

     

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