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Why in the world do they call it a “pit stop,” and why do they tell drivers to “box” to come perform a pit stop? 


We’ll get to the definitions and reasons in a minute, but let’s appreciate the teamwork and coordination you see when watching a pit stop. Teams spend countless hours practicing choreographed steps to make the pit stop as fast as possible. The pit crews are made up of mechanics and engineers who have other important jobs during the race week, but are also on the pit crew to help make an impact during the race.




As I’ve mentioned in prior blogs, there are tenths of seconds of difference between teams from first to last place on the track. The pit stop can help you gain or lose those tiny increments. A pit stop goes wrong, and the team tumbles down the order; but get it right, and they could jump ahead of the cars in front of them. 


Oh, and did I mention that on average, Formula 1 pit stops take only around two seconds? What can you do in two seconds? Well, a Formula 1 pit crew can pick up the car and change four tyres in that time. It really is an unbelievable display of teamwork.


Okay, so why do they call it a pit stop? The word “pit” came from before racing even started. Back in the day before hydraulic lifts, mechanics dug out pits to get underneath the cars. It was much safer than crawling underneath the car.You may see these pits today when you go to an oil change shop. People back then related going to the “pit” to where you’d go to get the car serviced.


“Box,” on the other hand, comes from the German word Boxenstopp which means “pit stop.” I’m not 100% sure why they use that term instead of “pit,” but I would imagine that understanding “box” in the radio over “pit” would be much easier.


When Formula 1 began after World War II, the pit lane was typically on the track, marked off by a white line. Cars would come perilously close to the pit lane at 180 mph while cars were being worked on. There was no protection for the small crew — typically two mechanics — from being hit by debris or by another car. Additionally,  there was no pit lane speed limit to follow. Cars went as fast as they could to get to their pit box and slammed on the brakes. On top of that, when the cars did stop, the mechanics refilled the gas tank with giant metal funnels and milk jugs filled with gasoline. The mechanics had to be just as crazy as the drivers back then. Plus, they had to do pit stops twice as often as today since the race was twice as many laps. You can easily understand the dangers here.


Around 1950, Formula 1 figured out that lengthy races and pit stops were too dangerous, which made them change the length of the races. Luckily, teams were designing new cars that placed the engine in the back. This increased aerodynamics and dropped weight. With the length of the race changing, these new cars made refueling unnecessary. After the change in the 1950s, pit stops were only used for issues with the car. If a car entered the pits, the car was more than likely retiring from the race or going to end up last. 


When the 1980s came around, Formula 1 Team Brabham's Gordan Murray, the chief designer for the team, did some analysis. Murray looked at removing as much weight from the car as possible and realized that one of the heaviest pieces of the car was the fuel. Murray understood that removing one pound of weight would equate to one-tenth of a second less time around the track. Murray knew that if the team could start the race on less fuel than the competitors, and refuel the car again with less than half of the fuel for the second half of the race, they could win. 


Murray also realized that even if they cut the weight of the car with fuel, they’d still have the same issues of tyre degradation as everyone else. The tyres at the beginning of the race were quick, but as the race went on, the tyres would begin to degrade. Fresh tyres could make the car two seconds faster in each lap. Murray completed a complex analysis and came up with the equations that determined a delta of around 26 seconds for the pit stop, with adding fuel and tyre change in order to win. This calculation was all done without the 300-plus sensors they have on the cars today. Even though Murray was confident of his calculation, it was still a risk.


Once Murray had this all worked out, the real work needed to begin. No one had done this before. The team had to figure out how to design wheel nuts that easily were removed from the wheel in order to change the tyre quickly. The team needed to figure out how to fuel the car quickly enough so that they didn’t overheat the engine while idle in the pit. And don’t forget about the tyres themselves: You can’t put cold tyres on a car in the middle of the race. They had to figure out how to warm the tyre before it was put on the car.


Murray’s team then designed, built and tested the new pit stop components and strategy. They implemented the pit stop and found success, finishing second in the championship against other teams that had a lot more money. Not only did it make them faster around the track, but it saved them money.


Eventually, the rest of the teams followed suit. In 1986, refueling the cars was banned. It was determined that all the slick technology in the world wasn’t going to stop a sudden fireball of flames happening in the pits. After the refueling ban, the pit stop became a race of tyre changes.


Now teams are completing pit stops in around two seconds. In order to do this, the teams must work in coordination, the driver must hit the right spot in the pit, and everything must go perfectly for the pit advantage to happen. Of course, the technology has also come a long way, from the tyre warmers to the air guns and even the wheel nuts. It’s an exciting part of the race, and it always makes me a little nervous and excited when a Formula 1 car drives into the pits. You hope that each team can have a flawless pit stop, allowing the drivers to duke it out on the track. 

The pit stop shows the true teamwork of the Formula 1 teams and their commitment as a team to win. It’s really cool to see the pit crew's reaction when they have a great pit stop, and I’m sure many of the drivers have a huge smile on their face when a great pit stop happens.


Dutch Grand Prix

Circuit Zandvoort


This track had never seen a modern day Formula 1 car until this weekend. The last time Formula 1 was held here by the Dutch Sand Dunes was 1985. This track is part of the World War II era race tracks, but has been updated as of 2020. This track has a short area where the track actually banks 18 degrees. It’s like watching someone do the luge.


Free Practice Recap

How to read: session#, best lap time, (time behind first place time) number of laps in session, best place finish in session.


Lando Norris #4

FP1 1m12.679s (+1.179s) 18 laps 11th

FP2 1m11.488s (+0.586s) 27 laps 8th

FP3  1m10.781s (+1.158s) 19 laps 6th


Daniel Ricciardo #3

FP1 1m13.081s (+1.581s) 18 laps 14th

FP2 1m12.157s (+1.255s) 25 laps 15th

FP3 1m11.013s (+1.390s) 19 laps 11th


Qualifying Recap

How to Read: session#, fastest lap time, best place finish in session.


Lando Norris #4

Q1 1m10.489s (Softs) 15th

Q2 1m10.406s (Softs) 13th


Daniel Ricciardo #3

Q1 1m10.255s (Softs) 9th

Q2 1m09.865s (Softs) 6th

Q3 1m10.166s (Softs) 10th


Race Recap:

Daniel and Lando had good starts. It’s very difficult to pass at this track, but it was interesting what happened with pit strategy and the backmarkers (lapped cars). It was a long race for both drivers. Dirty air was definitely a factor. McLaren made some great decisions with race strategy. McLaren started Lando on the Medium tyre. Choosing the hard tyre, compared to almost everyone else who chose the soft tyre, allowed Lando to be the last of the cars to pit. This took Lando from 13th to 9th in the middle of the race. The great part about where Lando pitted was that he was able to come out of the pit behind his teammate Daniel. With Norris' new tyres he started taking seconds off the cars in front of him. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t get any further up the order. This saw Daniel finish 11th and Lando finishing 10th.


To quote Daniel after the race, “Next up, Monza! Give me some pizza!”






Dutch 2021 Podium


Drivers Championship Points


Constructor Championship Points


Max Verstappen


Lewis Hamilton




Lewis Hamilton


Max Verstappen


Red Bull


Valtteri Bottas


Valtteri Bottas




Full F1 results


Next Race: Italian Grand Prix

Date: Sunday, September 12th

Track: Autodromo Nazionale Monza

Dan Menke
Community Analytics and Operations Manager

Dan is the Community Operations Manager at Alteryx. From optimizing moderation processes, to exploring new engagement techniques, Dan spends his days supporting clients by cultivating great Community experiences.

Dan is the Community Operations Manager at Alteryx. From optimizing moderation processes, to exploring new engagement techniques, Dan spends his days supporting clients by cultivating great Community experiences.