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Top 8 Fastest Formula 1 Pitstops

Savio is a resident of Mumbai, India. Cars, bikes, and everything fast are his passion, and he writes about them on many sites.

What Is a Pitstop?

A pitstop is a momentary stop for a racing car, away from the main racing track, for filling fuel and changing tires.

The need for a pitstop arises from the fact that racing cars cannot carry the full fuel load required to last the entire race distance. Besides, they accelerate so fast and brake so hard that the tires wear out quickly. The deteriorated tires lack grip and hence slow down the car. To avoid a drop in performance, the tires are changed at pre-defined intervals.

A pitstop is therefore essential for the cars to continue racing without a drop in performance. While pitstops are as old as racing itself, it remained a slow affair initially, where drivers could even sip tea or coffee during the stop. However, today it is lightning quick, and all a driver can catch is a couple of breaths.

Pitstops in Formula 1

fastest-formula-1-pitstops

Pitstops have come a long way from just another car check back in the 1950s to a strategic stop in the 2000s.

No other sport has seen a more drastic evolution than Formula 1.

For comparison, take a look Juan Manuel Fangio, the legend who won five F1 world titles back in the '50s stopping for a pitstop.

The pitstop starts at 0:25 minutes, and Fangio gets out of his car for discussions with his team. The average time for changing tires and refuelling was 67 seconds back then. That is something unthinkable in today’s F1 era.

So, how fast are today’s F1 pitstops?

Let’s find out.

List of Fastest Pitstops

List of fastest pitstops. Read on to know more.

Racing TeamSpeed of Stops

Almost all cars during the refueling era

~ average 8 seconds

Ayrton Senna: McLaren

4.81 seconds

Valterri Bottas: Mercedes

2.36 seconds

Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes

2.31 seconds

Kimi Raikkonen: Ferrari

2.20 seconds

Sebastian Vettel: Ferrari

1.97 seconds

Max Verstappen: Red Bull

1.88 seconds

Max Verstappen: Red Bull

1.82 seconds

8. Fastest Pitstop in the Refuelling Era: Average 8 seconds

The pitstop time varies depending on whether the car is only changing tires or both changing tires and refuelling. The amount of refuelling necessary dictates how long the vehicle stays stationary. In the modern era, between 1994 and 2009, the F1 regulation allowed refuelling. Before the said period and after that, only tire changes were permitted and no in-race refuelling.

Again, during the refuelling era, the fuel to be put in a car would also vary based on the team strategy. For example, time and again, Michael Schumacher followed a three-stop strategy instead of two in his races. Why? So that he could race on a low fuel load, open up a considerable lead over the second-place car, then finish the last pitstop and still come out in front. In contrast, Mika ran a few races on higher fuel load and lesser pitstops when McLaren was a dominant car back in the late 90s. So, depending on the team strategy, car speed or track dynamics, the amount of refuelling would change. It is difficult to designate a pitstop back then as "the fastest" because the refuelling would be different depending on the strategy.

All said and done, it was still between 6-12 seconds, never 67 seconds as seen in the 50s era. Take a look at a fan video of Michael Schumacher coming in for tire change and fuel top-up.

Note: This is a fan-made video and hence a bit shaky.

  • Team: Ferrari
  • Driver: Michael Schumacher
  • Pitstop Time: ~ 8 seconds

Schumi stops at 0:29 minute and starts at 0:37 minute mark. So, that’s an eight-second pitstop. It is super-quick by the 1950s standard but super-slow by the 2018 examples.

7. Ayrton Senna – McLaren: 4.81 seconds

Here is one example from 1993, before the refuelling era, and we can see the Brazilian legend, Ayrton Senna, coming in for a tire change and exiting in 4.81 seconds. That’s way faster than the 8 seconds we saw for Michael Schumacher but still slower than the pitstops that we will soon see.

  • Team: McLaren
  • Driver: Ayrton Senna
  • Pitstop Time: 4.81 seconds

Suggestion: The video is not in English. Viewers can mute and watch.

It is believed that the fastest pitstop back then was done by Benetton in 1993, which lasted only 3.2 seconds. The details about the stop are something that one of the Benetton crew members had written in one of his books. Though I don’t have a direct reference, it would be interesting for the readers to know that even 3.2 is quite slow by today’s F1 pitstop standards.

6. Valterri Bottas – Mercedes: 2.36 seconds

Now, we are entering the swift pitstop realm. These are incredibly fast, and Mercedes clocked one of fastest at 2.36 seconds.

  • Team: Mercedes
  • Driver: Valterri Bottas
  • Pitstop Time: 2.36 seconds

Research shows that humans take about 0.1 to 0.4 seconds to blink. That means, here the pitstops are done just about six times the speed of our blink. Phew, that has to be fast!

5. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes: 2.31 seconds

Lewis Hamilton is the next record-setter or the one who enjoyed the largesse of his extremely fast pit crew. When we thought 2.36 seconds was quick, we have an example of 2.31 seconds. That’s impressively fast.

  • Team: Mercedes
  • Driver: Lewis Hamilton
  • Pitstop Time: 2.31 seconds

The Suzuki Hayabusa, one of the fastest road-legal bike, accelerates from 0-100 kmph in 2.6 seconds. If the Busa and the pit crew were to start together, the team would win hands down even before the bike touched 100 kmph. That’s how fast the pit crew were!

You can read the article on the fastest bikes to understand the comparison.

4. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari: 2.20 seconds

In the current scenario, most of the cars complete their pitstops between 2.3 to 3 seconds. So, when Kimi’s pit hit the 2.2 seconds mark for the first time in 2018, it was a world record back then. Here are the details:

  • Team: Ferrari
  • Driver: Kimi Raikkonen
  • Pitstop Time: 2.20 seconds

You can see the video showcasing the pitstops of the last three drivers.

Interestingly, just when it appeared that going any faster would be impossible, the timesheets went below 2.2 also; and Ferrari started the fastest pitstop game. Take a look at the next pitstop.

3. Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari: 1.97 seconds

Ferraris went sub 2 seconds to change tires for an F1 car. How fast is that! Sebastian Vettel benefitted from this pitstop and almost gained a position as he joined back. That’s the difference these super-fast pitstops make.

  • Team: Ferrari
  • Driver: Sebastian Vettel
  • Pitstop Time: 1.97 seconds

Take a look at this pit lane video.

Sebastian’s pit change starts at 0:22 minutes. See how fast that was?

I am afraid, I have to break the news that this is not the fastest pitstop either. Let’s move on to the next one.

2. Max Verstappen – Red Bull: 1.88 seconds

A game which Ferrari started Red Bull perfected. In fact, the Red Bull team were so fast in tire change that they beat their own world record three times. First, it was 1.96 seconds, then 1.92 seconds and then 1.88 seconds - all in a matter of a few months of racing.

  • Team: Red Bull
  • Driver: Max Verstappen
  • Pitstop Time: 1.88 seconds

And yet, this is not the fastest either.

1. Max Verstappen – Red Bull: 1.82 seconds

And here is the fastest pit change recorded so far. The Red Bull team aced up their own record once again.

  • Team: Red Bull
  • Driver: Max Verstappen
  • Pitstop Time: 1.82 seconds

In theory, the pit crew changed the tires in 4.2 times the speed of the blink of an eye. Will this remain the fastest ever? Well, they say, never say never!

Back to the Pits

The pit times have changed dramatically over the past decade, and more so, in the last couple of years. When Elon Musk unveiled the quickest electric sports car (which is also the quickest sports car), he beat the world of cars to 100 kmph. The Roadster could do 0-100 kmph in just 1.9 seconds. There was simply no other car which could accelerate faster.

However, someone forgot to tell that to the Formula 1 Red Bull team. They can change the tires of an F1 car before the Roadster could hit 100 kmph. I am sure Elon Musk is not going to be amused.

But then again, these pitstops are getting faster and faster, and we may have to keep our eyes and ears open for quicker stops.

So, watch this space!

© 2020 Savio Koman