Formula 1 is a sport where drivers go flat out round and round on a race track. Usually, the race distance is 305km or 190 miles. Over this distance, F1 drivers go head-to-head against one another, pushing themselves to the limit. This forces drivers to use different sets of tires during a Grand Prix. The regulations also make it mandatory for drivers to use two different tire compounds in a race
Thus, fans often hear the term ‘box’ on the team radio of all the drivers. This signals the driver that it is time to come into the pits and get a new set of tires. Although, a pitstop can also include a front wing change or serve a time penalty. The message to make a pitstop must be given accurately to the driver to avoid any misunderstandings, that might ruin the race strategy.
Race strategies in Formula 1 are based around tires, as refueling is banned in the sport. Teams might call in a driver a couple of laps before their rivals to get the undercut. This allows the driver to get ahead of their rivals in front after they make their pitstops. On the other hand, an overcut refers to when a driver gains track position after pitting later than their competitors. Drivers can also make a late pitstop for the fastest lap—a trick used by Max Verstappen on many occasions.
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Why is the term ‘box’ used to signal a pitstop in Formula 1?
The reason for Formula 1 teams to use the term, ‘box’ is the clarity of the word. ‘Box’ is easier to understand than ‘pit.’ An F1 driver races the car in the midst of loud engine sounds. This might lead to difficulty in hearing words on the team radio. Subsequently, ‘box’ is widely used to signify a pitstop as a driver can understand the term more easily.
As a result of the noise in a Formula 1 cockpit, the race engineer usually says ‘box’ three times to the driver. This is done to ensure that the driver has understood the message in case of disturbance in the transmission. F1 drivers control the beasts of a machine at over 200mph, and the usage of ‘box’ can make it easier to understand the message. If the term is unclear, the driver might miss out on the stop, especially during a late call, such as Lewis Hamilton at the 2018 German GP.
Another reason for the term ‘box’ is that ‘pitstop’ in German translates to ‘boxenstop.’ Formula 1 has had a great German influence on the sport, with Mercedes being a major player even before its recent domination. The country has also given some all-time greats, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
Thus, the choice of the term box for pitstops is for easier transmission to the driver. The term ‘pit’ might not be as easy to understand in the loud cockpit, making it a less favorable term. Of course, ‘pit’ is still used occasionally by engineers during sessions. However, it is clear that ‘box’ is synonymous with a pitstop in Formula 1.
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