Guest Author - Christine Blachford
For the last few years, Ferrari have been the team to beat when it comes to precision in the pit lane. The twenty or so mechanics were like a well-oiled machine as their drivers came in for a scheduled stop, changing tyres, adding fuel and sending them on their way again.
This season, things seem to have become a little less organised, and at the European Grand Prix, it all went horribly wrong.
The team don't have a lollipop man as their competitors do. Instead, they run a complex system of traffic lights. As the different sections of the pit stop are complete, a button is pressed to allow the lights to update. Once all buttons are pressed, the orange light shows for the driver to get ready, and once it goes green, he can be on his way.
For their first pit-stop misdemeanour, Ferrari released Massa into the path of an oncoming car. Sutil for Force India was making his way to the end of the pit lane, and suddenly found himself battling for position with Massa. The traffic light system does have an override for a specific mechanic, who should be watching for any oncoming cars in the pitlane. Obviously this didn't happen at the time, although we have seen it in action earlier in the year.
The stewards announced the incident was unsafe and the team would be investigated, meaning their win wasn't assured until the result was announced post-race. They escaped with a fine and a reprimand.
Their next calamity came when Raikkonen arrived for his pit stop. He was battling Kovalainen out on track, and the pair arrived in the pit lane at the same time, meaning a head to head battle for position. Raikkonen was obviously keen to get out in front, and pulled away when the lights were orange, and not green. The refuelling rig was still attached, and the refueller was knocked to the ground.
The inevitable delay lost Raikkonen the position to Kovalainen and another place as well. Ultimately it didn't matter, because his engine gave up before the end of the race anyway. But the mechanic was stretchered off to the medical centre, and later it was announced he had a fracture in his left foot. Raikkonen has admitted the mistake was his and apologised, but in a weekend of pit lane catastrophes, it has led some to wonder whether the traffic light system is really the best way to go.