Last year Ferrari suffered many embarrassments in the pitstops when both Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen dropped the clutch too early, resulting in near-misses with other cars (mainly similarly powered Adrian Sutil). The reason for the near misses wasn’t always driver error, and Ferrari’s lighting system came under a lot of criticism, so much so that the Maranello squad reverted back to the standard lollipop for the final three races. But the idea isn’t completely dead and buried just yet.
The main issue wasn’t really to do with the lights themselves – on the face of it they are a very good idea and remove one person from the pitlane. However, the first problem came when the fuel nozzle-retraction from the car didn’t indicate the lights to change. The second issue centred around the human on the pit wall who was charged with giving the final confirmation that all was clear for the car to go. It seemed that sometimes it didn’t always go to plan.
In Valencia, Kimi Raikkonen left the garage early, replays suggesting the light was amber, indicating that this was driver error. But in Singapore, Massa was given the green light to go. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, the fuel hose was still attached and ended up being dragged down the pitlane. In both cases, team members were pulled to the ground and received minor injuries.
So for the final three races of 2008, Ferrari reverted to the traditional lollipop system, whereby a member of the team stands in front of the car and gives instructions to the driver via the lollipop. But all these embarrassments haven’t stopped Ferrari from pursuing the lighting system, and now it is expected to make a return in 2009.
We’ve analysed the mistakes made in 2008 and we’ve improved the system. An electronic program will prevent the car from leaving when the fuel hose is still attached. Luca Baldisserri.
Since the end of the 2008 season, Ferrari have researched what happened and why the accidents occurred. The team have made several changes to the system, notably the software, and are now confident that it should work as expected, with a very good fail-safe systems in place to prevent any more early releases. Perhaps Ross Brawn let a few documents slip through the net in exchange for a few Italian-built motors…?