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McLaren: Pit-stop consistency the priority 04 Jul 2012

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Sam Michael (AUS) McLaren Sporting Director look at the pit stop light system.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 8 June 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 10 June 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 10 June 2012 A pit stop as seen from above Lewis Hamilton's McLaren Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, 22 April 2012

McLaren are optimistic they won’t suffer another pit-stop slip-up at this weekend’s British Grand Prix, after putting in hours of practice back at the factory. Sporting director Sam Michael is confident the hard work will ensure they won’t be blindsided by another front-jack failure, which saw Lewis Hamilton sit for over 14 seconds in the pit box at last month’s European round.

“We identified the problem in Valencia and why that failed and the design has been modified for Silverstone,” Michael explained in a Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes ‘Phone-In’. “On Monday this week, we completed 800 pit stops on the jacking systems, with no faults at all. During a race weekend, we would probably do about 50 pit stops, including all of the practices, so effectively we did 16 Grand Prix weekends on Monday.

"So we believe that we have solved it, but at least we have done good due diligence on the new design we have got for Silverstone. If we go there and have a fault we can say that we have done as much as we could, which is what we do in engineering.”

This new ‘fast-jack system’ is just one of the improvements McLaren have introduced this season to optimise their pit-stop times. And with the British team logging the fastest pit stop in Formula One history at last month’s European round, after setting a new record of 2.6s during the Valencia event, it seems to be working.

Even so, with pit-lane issues hampering the team again and again this season, critics have argued that this quest for speed has cost the outfit consistency and made the pit crew and equipment more error-prone. Michael, however, disagrees and maintains that uniformity in the stops - and setting fastest average times - remains top of the team’s agenda.

“Our target is not the fastest stationary time but the fastest average time,” he explained. “Our internal target is to achieve three-second pit stops consistently. Consistency always has been our goal and all of the technology that we have added has actually been to add consistency, rather than speed. We have gained speed at the same time, but that's not at all our focus.

“This year at McLaren, we have been on a technology and personnel ramp-up. We have introduced a lot of different parts in a short space of time, like a traffic light system, fast jacking systems and retained wheel nuts. The very nature of R&D is that you sometimes get things wrong and that's what happened to us in Valencia.”

To emphasise his point, Michael drew attention to the pit-stop problems suffered by other teams as they too experiment, pointing out that McLaren are not the only ones to have had issues when they introduced new technology.

“If you look back at the other teams who have introduced some of these items before us, they went through similar pain and some of them are still going through it,” he concluded.

“Look at Red Bull in Montreal, they had a problem with a front-right tyre. Look at Ferrari in Valencia last week - the front-left tyre wasn’t even changed when they changed the front wing on Massa’s car. Mercedes are still having problems retaining wheel nuts. So we’re not unique in having issues with equipment or technical process. We do take it very seriously internally.”

McLaren will be back on track - and in the pit lane - on Friday when this weekend’s 2012 Formula 1 Santander British Grand Prix gets underway.

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