As recently as 2020, Ferrari was second to last in pit stops, which have improved significantly over the past season – emblematic of the Scuderia’s form curve
In the 2021 Formula 1 season, Ferrari improved significantly compared to the previous year and took third place in the constructors’ championship. This was mainly thanks to optimisations at the operational level, according to the team. The pit stops also played a central role in this.
“Our focus was on the execution of the races,” explained Ferrari race director Laurent Mekies. “Perhaps two things should be kept in mind. First, execution comes from preparation, so a few years ago we had to invest a lot in tools and simulations to improve. “
That, coupled with further investment, has borne fruit during the year, he said. The pit stops are a good example of this, he said. “The year before, we were second to last in terms of that,” Mekies looks back. To change that, he says Ferrari as a team worked on one criterion in particular: Consistency.
“It’s very nice to be at the top of the table with the fastest pit stop in the world, and that’s excellent work,” says the race boss. “What we look at in terms of fighting for the championship is consistency. The criteria we use is the percentage of pit stops under three seconds. “
Mekies explains the importance of good stops
“If you make a pit stop under three seconds, then the race is where it should be. If it’s 2.5, 2.6 or 2.3 seconds, it’s not going to make much difference to the race result. We are also looking at how fast we stay under three seconds at the stops, but the most important parameter for us is the percentage. “
Because if you take longer than those three seconds, you are very likely to lose positions, Mekies explained further. “In 2020 we were second to last on this criterion. So we’ve done an extensive programme to try and change things, both on the car and with the guys with the training and the methodology we use.”
“Today, in terms of said criteria, we are third. And we’re not third in points by accident either. I think this is a good example of how background work leads to better results,” the 44-year-old stressed. That applies to pit stops, tyre management, race strategy and many other things, he adds.
How much better Ferrari stops have become
“In such a close championship battle, where every point is at stake, the execution has to be at the highest level. There are no excuses. That’s why in 2021, even if the car wasn’t as fast as we would have liked, we took the fight as if it was for the championship.”
In numbers, that translates into the following, as far as pit stops are concerned: While Ferrari’s percentage of stops under three seconds was between 50 and 60 in 2020, they increased to 75 to 80 per cent next year, Mekies calculates.
When asked about the much more consistent performance in the second half of the season, with double points hauls in nine out of ten races, the Ferrari race director explains, “I think it’s a consequence of the improvements. I wouldn’t put it down to just the execution, because it’s just the last part. “
How did the strong second half of the season come about?
“We have invested in our tools, we have made better preparations and they are being executed better now. There is also the integration of Carlos. You have to learn to speak the same language and that takes time,” he addresses newcomer Carlos Sainz and his acclimatisation.
“We have made some progress in integrating Carlos. He has brought a lot of very solid feedback and approaches from his previous experiences. But it took time to combine those with our own approaches to eventually make the best use of them together with Charles. I think that translated into double points in the second half of the season.”
“At the beginning of the season or the year before, it was very easy to be completely off in the race,” Mekies admits. “I think in the second half of the season that doesn’t happen anymore. The last time was in France where we had a tyre drama. “