Ferrari strategy chief explains why Sainz’s Zandvoort pit stop went so wrong
Carlos Sainz suffered an early setback at the Dutch Grand Prix when a disastrous pit stop dropped him down the pack and out of contention for a podium finish – and Ferrari have now explained how and why it all went so wrong.
Sainz was running third in the opening laps of the Zandvoort encounter when Ferrari called him into the pits to swap his starting set of soft tyres for mediums, but the service proved to be far from straightforward – the Spaniard stationary for 12.7 seconds due to the rear-left tyre not being ready as he arrived at his box, as you can see in the video clip below.
According to Inaki Rueda, Head of Race Strategy at Ferrari, while the call to Sainz – which came late in response to Red Bull pitting Sergio Perez, and to protect from the undercut against Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell – did not cause an issue for the driver, it was another matter entirely for the mechanics in the garage.
“The pit stop call usually has two factors: one is the call [from] us to the driver, and the other one is our call to our crew," Rueda explained in Ferrari’s Dutch Grand Prix debrief video.
"The call to the driver in this case came at the right time. Carlos had no problem coming into the box. He knew he was coming in and he had enough time to make the pit lane.
“The call to the pit crew usually comes around 23 to 24 seconds [before the pit stop], but in this case, because we were reacting to Perez, it came later. We only gave our pit crew 17 seconds to react.
“Our pit crew need this time to come out into the location and be ready when the driver comes. We have our gunmen, the tyre removers come out, and the tyre fitters come – crucially – through the pit stop area.”
As such, the combination of a smaller window of reaction time for the mechanics, and the tight Zandvoort pit lane, combined to leave Sainz agonisingly sitting in his car for some 10 seconds more than usual, as his rivals flashed by.
Rueda continued: “In this case, Carlos came in a bit earlier than usual. The front-left tyre fitter managed to squeeze in between the front wing and the front jack, but the rear-left tyre fitter did not manage to get by.
“To make matters worse, at Zandvoort we have a very narrow pit lane, and this meant that the rear-left tyre fitter had to go around the whole pit crew to make it eventually to his corner. That’s why you saw that all the three other corners had finished before we had a rear-left tyre to be fitted on the car.”
Adding insult to injury, Sainz was hit with a five-second penalty later in the race for an unsafe release in front of Fernando Alonso’s Alpine during a Safety Car period.