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They Haven’t Worked For Ferrari, But That Hasn’t Stopped Honda Developing Pitstop Lights

They Haven’t Worked For Ferrari, But That Hasn’t Stopped Honda Developing Pitstop Lights

Despite Ferrari’s pitstop lighting system having let the team down on two occasions thus far, Honda are testing a similar system with the view of running it next season. Like with Ferrari, the lights hang from a gantry above the driver during a pitstop and indicate when it is safe to to leave the box and continue with the race. Although Ferrari haven’t had much luck with them, Ross Brawn believes the lights are safer than the traditional lollipop.

Honda tried the system for the first time during the Thursday pitstop practice at Fuji yesterday and have even mooted the idea of running them during Friday’s practices in China and Brazil. And speaking to Autosport, Ross Brawn stated that he believes it could be safer than having a team member stand near the car with a lollipop.

We can see a lot of safety benefits from the system. But like any system it has got to be very robust and you have got to be very confident in the technology you are using. It is quite a delicate situation.

At the moment we are really going through an assessment period. We wanted to do some trialling in the practice days at the race track to be in a good position to make a judgement over the winter about what we want to do. Ross Brawn.

Ferrari's Pitstop Lighting SystemThe current issue surrounding pitstops is two-fold. Firstly, the danger of the car leaving while the fuel hose is still attached can add unnecessary danger to an already dangerous part of the race. In Singapore, Felipe Massa lept away from his pitstop too early and the hose was ripped from the refuelling rig, taking a team member down and briefly spraying fuel as it flew past. The second issue is being released into the fast lane in front of another driver. This aspect of the pitstop comes down to human judgement, but the consequences of getting wrong are potentially race-ending penalties.

The light system is designed to help with problem-one, the lights not changing until the hose is clear from the car. This is an automatic part of the process and in theory, shouldn’t fail in the way a human can. Of course, that doesn’t mean to say it won’t, but as Brawn says, you have to be confident in the technology you’re using.

We can see, despite the poor exposure the system has had recently, a lot of safety benefits of the system – because the interlocks you create can, in theory, make it impossible for the car to be released without all the actions being completed.

But someone has to make the call for whether there is a gap in the pitlane for the car to exit into, and we haven’t yet worked out a way to deal with that. We have thought about sensors in the pitlane that sense when other cars are there and things like that, but that is still a human judgement.

It would still be human judgement if you had a lollipop though. And, with a lollipop, the guy is also trying to make that judgement at the same time as watching all the other activities that are going on with the car. That is where it is more difficult for him. Ross Brawn.

Interestingly, Ferrari are reverting away from the auto-lights in Fuji in favour of the traditional and proven pitstop-lollipop. One thing that inspires confidence in Honda’s approach though is that they are quite clear with the fact they won’t rush into the new system, but instead want to extensively test it over the winter first.

Oliver White

8 comments

  • I agree, one team seeing another team try something and fail will only encourage other teams to try it as well in order to “get one up on them.”

    Of course, it may be the system is simply not up to the task so therefore they will all end up wasting an awfull lot of time and money chasing the impossible!

  • I don’t think the problem with the Ferrari system is the lights.. it’s the fact that the pit crew is not working and the organization behind it isn’t working.

    Just why it would be that different whether a guy flicks a sign up or presses a button when he knows it’s safe to release the car isn’t clear to me. Surely it’s the guys eyes that are the important instruments?

    I think the fact that Ferrari have a problem in the pit crew became very obvious AFTER Massa drove off with the fuel hose still attached. I was thinking “Quick guys! Get over there and take that hose off so he can at least keep going!”

    Instead of keeping their championship contender’s hope alive, however, the Ferrari pit crew first finished Raikkonen’s car and then stood around like they were sipping an espresso at the local café, shaking heads, etc.. then some 10 seconds later, somebody said “You remember that fuel hose?” and they started jogging (not running) down the pit lane.

    If Ross Brawn had still be there, there would have been people running down the pit lane BEFORE Massa had gotten past the second garage and well before anybody knew whether the mechanic was alright or not. Hell, Ross would have been moving his considerable weight down the pit lane as fast as possible and he would have personally taken the hose off 😉

    Ferrari’s problem is that they no longer have the big brains that made them into a winning team. Instead they have a body (the organization that was created by the brains that have left) that is still moving and in good health, but what’s above the neck is quite simply not of the same quality.

    Brawn, Todt, Byrne, Schumacher made Ferrari into a winning team. Their absence hasn’t lead to an immediate collapse as some feared, but it is being felt. The weakened Ferrari is fighting a weakened McLaren team; both are a long way off their (brilliant) best.

    Next year will be the real test for Ferrari: will they still be a top team when they need to adapt to new rules? will the “new” brains live up to the challenge?

    The sheer number of disastrous mistakes made by Ferrari over this season and last (and perhaps even during the last two years of the Schumacher era) make me wonder..

  • Soon as I saw it, only two words sprung to mind.”Murphy`s Law”….Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong… Even though the Lollipop Man is subject to Murphy`s Law, there are less things to go wrong, compared to the multi computerised, multi interfaced, multi Human error prone system, how this ever got off the drawing board before we have computer chips implanted in our noggins is beyond me.

  • The big advantage of a lollipop is if something goes wrong it can be slammed back down in front of the driver. No-one looks at the traffic lights after they see green.

  • Yes Stevens that is what I think too! Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be much foolproof!

    In the quali today at Ferrari lollipop man raised the lollipop but Massa -for some reason- had difficulties to engage 1st gear… and at that point some other driver was going down the pitlane so the lollipop man put it down again, but Massa didn’t take notice… We were very close to another incident!

    I believe the driver should be aware that he must watch the lollipop even after it has been raised if he doesn’t start immediately!!!

  • That incident proves that the problem is not in the technology, but in the people operating it. There is no technology so simple that people with no knowledge of how to use it can use it correctly…

  • well yes and no 😉 We use our cars we barely no knowledge of what is involved… same with TV, Fridge, cellphone and so on…

    To me the issue is that nobody should rely entirely on technology… Never far from my shiny GPS is… a good old road map 😉

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