Contrary to popular belief, success in Formula 1® isn’t just dependent on the driver — behind each name is a team of engineers, strategists, designers and mechanics. Without them, there would be no cars and no racing. And, while the pit crew might only feature for a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them moments on our screens, they hold the key to every successful race. One wrong move and victory can vanish in a millisecond.
“As the Chief Mechanic, I look after the team of trackside mechanics,” says Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team’s Curtis Stones. “I oversee the car builds and it’s my job to ensure that the cars are built to the correct specification at each event.” While looking after his team of mechanics and ensuring the car’s 20,000-plus components come together in perfect harmony, Stones can be seen during the race wearing a fetching pink race suit during pit stops. “Yeah, so I’m the guy in the pink suit, standing at the front of the car — standing out like a sore thumb!” he laughs. “But it’s my job to initially get the driver’s attention and show him where the pit box is — it can be quite confusing out there for them when everyone’s in the pit lane at the same time.”
Still, Stones’s role involves more than just standing out from the crowd. “When the pit stop begins, I have a controller with two buttons,” he explains. “One is to hold the pit stop and keep the light on red, and the other button is to send the light to green and release the car. Once the car comes into the pit box, I’m looking at the pit lane — making sure it’s clear, there’s nobody in the way and nothing around the car so the release can be safe.”
Bearing ultimate responsibility for not only the safety of his team and competitors around him in the pit lane, but also for ensuring the pit stop is as effective as possible, and with the added pressure of having to achieve all this in a matter of seconds, is no small task. “It’s quite hard to capture everything in 1.8 to two seconds,” he smiles. “But ultimately you’re looking for everything to be moving in the same direction, that nothing is halted and that there are no problems.”
To perfect a four-wheel change in under two seconds takes practice, of course. During the off-season and lengthy gaps between races, Stones and his team will practise the same task repeatedly, using a rig that simulates the real-life car. “There’s very little time for communication in the pit stop itself,” he says. “Most of the communication happens beforehand. There’s a process to follow and each individual has their specific role in that process, which we’ve practiced during the wintertime.”
This story is an extract from an article featured in the AM49 issue of Aston Martin magazine, out now. If you're not already a subscriber, visit magazine.astonmartin.com/magazine-subscription so that you can read the full story.