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McLaren’s world record Formula 1 pitstop is a lesson in team coordination

Welcome to another edition of The Future of Automotive, with Steve Greenfield, Founder and CEO of Automotive Ventures, where I put recent automotive and mobility news items into context in terms of the broader thematic areas that will potentially impact the industry.

First up, I’ve always been fascinated by the Formula 1 pitstop.

If you watch these things in slow motion, it at first seems like orchestrated chaos, but the results of a coordinated team effort are truly incredible.

Earlier this month at the Qatar Grand Prix, the McLaren Formula 1 team managed a 1.8-second pitstop for Lando Norris, setting a new world record.

If you haven’t watched the video clip, you should look it up here. Don’t be surprised if your jaw drops.

Including the driver, there are 22 people that have to coordinate every motion to pull this off.

Each mechanic has a specific role, and the number of people working during any given stop depends on what needs to be done in addition to changing the tires. 

Two people lift the car on front and rear jacks. Two others stand ready with backup jacks just in case.

People on each side of the cockpit steady the car while it’s in the air.

Three people change out the wheel in each “corner” of the car — front right, left rear, etc. A “wheel-off” mechanic grabs the old tire, and a “wheel-on” mechanic slides the new one into place. The wheel-gun man (most pit crew mechanics are men) loosens and tightens the wheel nut.

At most stops, two mechanics adjust the front wing flap angle.

Other team members act as spotters, perform other minor car maintenance and stand by with fire extinguishers, backup equipment and extra tools and parts.

The chief mechanic oversees it all, with help from a car controller or other team official, and the driver plays an important role as well.

Unlike their counterparts in NASCAR, Formula 1 pit crews are not brawny athletes recruited to make race-day cameos. Because the series limits the number of staff at each race, pit crew members are chosen from among the people who would be working in the garage anyway: mechanics, technicians, IT specialists, and engineers.

Pit stops — including practice, prep and training — make up a small slice of their jobs.

The driver stays at the pit road speed limit for as long as possible before hitting the brakes.

At the pit box, he aims to stop at marks that were laid down by the team and measured to the millimeter.

A sign called a lollipop hangs above where a front tire should land. 

It is the trickiest part of a pit stop for a driver.

Before the car has stopped — seriously, before the car has stopped — the four wheel gun operators loosen the wheel nuts.

Each wheel contains a single, central nut that stays attached, so a tire change is really a wheel change.

Wheel gun is considered to be the most difficult job on the pit crew, but it’s also the most coveted.

Their torque is violent; hold one wrong and it can break your wrist, operators say.

The guns are also a window into the financial, technological and performance gulf between the top teams and some of the rest.

For example, the most advanced guns used by Red Bull and other teams – automatically switch directions from loosening to tightening with a trigger press. They are “intelligent,” sensing when a nut is secure.

About a second after the gun man loosens the old wheel, he tightens the new one. He pushes a button on his gun that signals that the wheel is secure, and his corner’s job is done.

Watching the video of this record-breaking pitstop can teach all of us a thing or two about the elegance of a high-performance, coordinated team effort.

Next up this week, I’ll be back up on stage in Scottsdale, Arizona, November 9, at the NAVIcon conference.

Anyone who has an interest in innovation around automotive technology should think about attending. 

During the event, five early-stage automotive tech startups will pitch to attendees. Three judges then vote on the winner. The audience also votes. The combined score determines the winner. 

Startup founders pitching this year include: 

  • Jimmy Douglas, founder of online used EV wholesale marketplace Plug,
  • Eric Lyman, co-founder of Remarkit, which helps lessors and automakers determine optimal residual value for better product development and risk management,
  • Chris Tosswill, co-founder and CEO of automated real estate marketing startup Addressable,
  • Brad Parker, Co-Founder and CEO of PrivateAuto, the first transactional marketplace to buy and sell cars privately,
  • And Cameron Duncan, the Co-Founder of insurance technology startup Axel.

Last year’s winner was Jim Roche, co-founder and CEO of WarrCloud, which automates warranty claims. I’m proud to say that Automotive Ventures is an investor in WarrCloud.

The conference also includes Q&A sessions with CarGurus CEO Jason Trevisan and the CarDealershipGuy, a car dealer and mystery commentator on the automotive market.

Finally, we’ll have a panel of some of our founders onstage to talk about the startup journey. That panel will include:

  • Nick Mottas from HopDrive,
  • Alex David from Treehouse,
  • Danny Zaslavsky from VINCUE,
  • Jim Roche from WarrCloud,
  • Scott Case from Recurrent,
  • And Jim Landy from Car Capital.

I hope you can join me out at NAVIcon, November 9 in Scottsdale!

Companies to Watch

Every week we highlight interesting companies in the automotive technology space to keep an eye on. If you read my weekly Intel Report, delivered to your email inbox at 7:00 AM on Mondays, I showcase a couple of companies to watch, and we take the opportunity here on this segment to share those companies with you.

Today, we have one new company to watch, called JOCO.

JOCO provides premium shared e-bikes for delivery riders.

JOCO is the first end-to-end platform that enables gig workers and companies to seamlessly use light electric vehicles for last mile delivery. JOCO’s high tech platform and LEV infrastructure network removes all the hassle of owning, storing, charging and maintaining a bike.

JOCO has a strong social mission, and has already helped thousands of couriers complete millions of deliveries without any upfront investment. With carbon emissions and congestion at an all-time high, JOCO is on a pursuit to bring cleaner air to the world.

JOCO is convenient, with over 50 locations throughout New York City.

JOCO allows riders zero maintenance. Never worry about maintenance and charging again. Grab a JOCO and go.

If you want to get a sneak peek into JOCO, you can check out their website at

Future of Mobility

If you’re an AutoTech entrepreneur working on a solution that helps car dealerships, we want to hear from you. We are actively investing out of our new DealerFund.

If you’re a dealer who wants to invest in early-stage AutoTech companies that benefit your business, let me know. We are still accepting new investors into the DealerFund.

If you’re interested in joining our Investment Club to make direct investments into AutoTech and Mobility startups with small checks, join the Club. There is no obligation to start seeing our deal flow.

And don’t forget to check out my book, The Future of Automotive Retail, on And keep an eye out for my new book, The Future of Mobility, which will be out at the end of the year.

Thanks as always for your ongoing support, and we look forward to working closely together with you to create the future of this industry.

Thank you for tuning into CBT News for this week’s Future of Automotive segment, and we’ll see you next week!

I’m glad that you could join us.

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Steve Greenfield
Steve Greenfield
Steve is the Founder and CEO of Automotive Ventures, an automotive technology advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs raise money and maximize the value of their companies. They also assist PE firms to conduct due diligence on automotive technology acquisitions, advise technology CEOs on strategy, and help represent sellers at the time of sale.

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