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Look & learn

24th May 2011

A word in yer’ ear Mr McLaren, Mr Ferrari, Mr Mercedes, et al. Early on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning get yourselves down to the Red Bull pit.

You’ll learn a lot.

You’ll see either Sebastian’s or Mark’s RB7 wheeled into the pitlane and then pulled back ten yards, while twenty or so dark-fire-suited guys walk briskly to their marks, assume a get-set position and prepare to do what they do.

The Red Bull team’s race pitstops are the class of the field right now, and as is the case in all walks of life practice really does make perfect.

The Circuit de Catalunya Media Centre window provides a fantastic view of just how perfectly prepared the Milton Keynes squad are to carry out an F1 pitstop. Blink and you’ll miss it because this lot will welcome their driver, jack his car up, remove all four wheels, replace them with fresh ones, indicate all is okay and then release the RB7 – all in three and a half seconds.

Each morning of a grand prix weekend at around 07.45, the 20-plus guys in the practice pitstop crew will carry out 12-15 simulations, and a couple of front wing replacements too.

Sure, the other top teams do a good job of replacing their cars’ rubber as well, but ten minutes comparing the squads will convince the onlooker just why Red Bull are the class of the field.

It’s the way the wheel guns are positioned in a nose-up fashion as close to the garage as possible, so the guys have them in hand as they assume their positions; it’s the way the airlines have small clips that are snapped into the belts of the wheel gun operators so as not to foul; it’s the way four laser beams shining from the gantry onto stop signs velcroed to the front wheels-off guys’ forearms ensure a perfect car position every time; it’s the way lollipop man Darren Nicholls oh-so-calmly does his job, exuding a relaxed demeanour in such a tense ten seconds; it’s the way chief mechanic Kenny Handkammer darts around the car, checking all is as it should be. All of this is overseen by race team manager Jonathan Wheatley, stopwatch in hand and calmly making neat notes on every little detail.

It’s the whole damn lot, really – a military operation par excellence – and the reasons both Sebastian Vettel and  Mark Webber can be sure of the briefest of breaks from flat out racing.

See you at 07.45…

Please now take a few minutes to enjoy my pictures from the 2011 Spanish grand prix by clicking here.

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