The record holders of the fastest Formula One pit stop and winners of DHL 2016 Pit Crew of the Year; Williams Racing are always looking for ways to improve their performance. In the 2016 season they turned to an unusual supplier to help them achieve their edge.
In a perfect Formula One pit stop the car can impact with the front jack with an energy equivalent to a baseball being pitched at 350mph, and nearly 500mph if the driver overshoots by just a few feet. This is a large impact for the front jack man to take through his hands and wrists and would likely result in injury over time. Any extra time taken to absorb this force before lifting the car is time wasted.
Throughout a season, Williams will perform roughly 2000 pit stops including factory based practice stops, live pit lane practice stops and full race stops. All of these stops put considerable shock loads through the front jack operator’s body.
This led to the designers looking for method to take some of the impact away from the jack operator, while not compromising his control over jack position. When searching for a suitable grip, Olly Self, Williams front jack designer stumbled upon the Revolution Suspension Grips from a colleague who is a keen mountain biker. After a short consultation with Brandon from Rev Grips a standard set of tuneable grips were on their way to the F1 factory in Grove.
It was a cunning concept; by decoupling the grip with the handlebar, the high frequency impact can be tuned out with rubber inserts. The initial fit and set up of the grips was really simple, with the design and quality also impressing the meticulous F1 team.
There was a choice of 2 grip sizes, a 31mm and 34mm diameter grip. The 31mm was chosen at first to keep the feel of the grip as similar to the jack operator’s original preference. The new set up was tested at the factory and immediate improvements were felt.
The jack, with its new grips, was then flown out to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix weekend to be tested at full speed in the pre-race pit stop practices. The performance increase felt by the jack operator resulted in the grips being put through a full race sign off procedure to test their ability to cope with the demands of record breaking F1 pit stops.
With the grips freshly signed off, they continued with the jack onto Mexico for the Gran Premio de México where Williams set the fastest pit stop of the race at a staggering 2.2seconds. Even with that fantastic achievement under their belt Williams were still looking for more.
The magnitude of impact from an F1 car is substantially more than the grips are designed to dampen out. Even with the standard grips set to maximum there was simply not enough to cope with a full car impact. Another gain was seen by opting for the 34mm diameter grips however there was still a need for more damping. Thankfully Brandon and his team at Rev Grips enjoy a challenge and were more than willing to customize the design to go beyond what the standard grip could offer.
They produced a special insert using a different compound of rubber and enhanced geometry to reduce the grip twist on the bar. This twisting inherently increases as the grips were dialled into the higher levels of damping.
The new improved grip was introduced for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix enabling the jack operator to commence lifting the car earlier with less shock loading.
It was great to see a clever and simple solution to a problem so well executed. The grips proved to be a very useful step in a game of very small margins. Working with Rev Grips has been really interesting for the design team and something Williams look forward to doing again in the future.
- Olly Self, Engineer, Advanced Development Group, Williams F1