Back in 2001, Fernando Alonso made a low-key Formula 1 debut that nevertheless caught the eye of those in the know. This year, another rookie is putting in stellar performances that totally outshine his machinery
Fernando Alonso’s first season in Formula 1 was a pointless one.

He was classified last of the regular drivers, failed to score a point and was behind Minardi teammate Tarso Marques – a driver nobody tipped for great things in grand prix racing in the future – in the championship. The black-and-white facts are those of a rookie season of an F1 nonentity.

The McLaren Formula 1 will work on its pitstop procedures and equipment over the winter in order to speed up the process and eliminate the risk of errors.
Lando Norris was badly delayed by a glitch in the recent Mexican GP, and ultimately retired because he was so far behind, while his teammate Carlos Sainz was forced to stop at Monza after leaving a stop with an unsecured wheel.

Some teams have systems that detect cross-threaded wheel nuts and prevent the car from leaving, and team boss Andreas Seidl concedes that McLaren has to catch up.

“It’s an area we have to work on where we are not at the level of the top teams,” he said. “We know where we have to work.

“First of all we have to provide our guys with better and more robust equipment, because we are simply behind. Also in terms of the safety mechanism you can include in the equipment so that it’s simply not possible that the car goes when the wheel is not fully on.

“That’s something we’ll work on now in the winter, that takes time, it’s not something you can do within a week or a month, so that’s one main area to focus on. Once we have that in place we can also take more risks again when doing the tyre changes.

“I think we have shown in the human side at the beginning of the season that we can do quick pitstops – we made a huge step forward, the guys did great stuff for the first half of the season.

“We are just not robust enough to be covered when it goes wrong, and that’s what we have to work on.”

Seidl says McLaren has to make an effort for next year despite the possibility that some pit equipment could become standard by 2021.

“It’s still open what happens in 2021. That’s still a discussion that’s ongoing at the moment to finalise the specification which will be in place from 2021. Fact is also that we lost too many points already this year with pitstop issues.

“Whatever we have to do for next year we have to do, because it’s well invested resources. I don’t want to go into next year’s races having the same risk.”

Seidl admitted that the team undertook conservative stops in Austin, where one stop for Lando Norris was briefly delayed by a wheel issue.

“In terms of pitstops after the issues we had we went safe, because for us it was important after Mexico to simply have a solid race with a solid pitstops.”


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