Revving to Victory: Red Bull’s F1 Triumph with 2-Second Pit Stops

The Athletic

The Unmistakable Call of ‘Box, Box’

Every Formula One fan is familiar with that radio message, the call for a driver to head in for a pit stop. Whether it’s changing tires, serving a time penalty or repairing damage, the pit stop is one of the most strategically important moments during any grand prix. McLaren holds the world record for the fastest pit stop — 1.80 seconds, set during the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix — but no team has matched the consistency of Red Bull’s blazing pace.

Red Bull’s Reign of the Fastest Pit Stop

For each of the last six seasons, the Milton Keynes-based team has won the DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award based on their stop times throughout the year. They should repeat in 2024, holding nine of the 10 fastest stops over the last five races. The top three came from the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, where Red Bull stunned the F1 world with two flawless double stacks, changing the tires on Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez’s cars in rapid succession.

Choreography of a Pit Stop

Whether a routine stop or a double stack, pit stops are choreographed dances. They begin the moment activity buzzes in the garage as more than 20 team members hurry out to their positions in the pitlane, waiting for the drivers to pull into the box. As Jonathan Wheatley, Red Bull’s Sporting Director, said, “Your perfect pitstop involves everyone having that perfect two seconds.”

Pit Stop Positions: A Whirlwind of Noise and Speed

Pit stops are a whirlwind of noise and speed, typically taking 2.5 seconds or less. The drivers need to hit their marks within the outlined area, and the crew members then jack up the front and back of the car, swap out the four wheels, and lower the car — all in unison when nailed perfectly.

Practice Makes Perfect

Teams practice pit stops during a race weekend, and fans can watch from pit lane or their seats during certain windows. But these sessions also take place back at the factory, both in and out of the season. Harrison said Red Bull will practice anywhere from five to 20 pit stops during these sessions. Wheatley commented how, with Red Bull, “your first pitstop is likely to be for a race win.”

The Final Product: The Art of a Perfect Pit Stop

A pit stop technically begins the day before a race, Wheatley said. That’s when the team discusses race strategy. Come race day, he’ll brief the team if there could be something unusual coming, and they’ll perform a series of stops during their routine practice session, mixing it up some to prepare. During the race, Wheatley keeps the team up to speed on how the race is unfolding strategically. Pit stops are about nailing the right timing, such as trying to do the opposite strategy of a rival to gain positions.

At the heart of every pit stop are the people and the seamless teamwork. Each person’s routine is different, down to whether they watch the car come down pit lane or when they snap down their visor. Then comes the rhythm — stop, lift, wheels (and the loud whirring that comes with the guns), drop and release. Pit stops are a staple of an F1 grand prix weekend, yet each person describes the strategic event differently.