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Button, Schumacher, Verstappen... The most number of F1 pit stops by a GP winner

2019-07-29 11:04

Charlen Raymond

Max Verstappen hands in the air

Image: CHARLES COATES / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

This weekend saw one of the best German Grand Prix in Formula 1 history, with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen victorious in a drama-filled race.

The young Dutchman saw off challenges from not only the 19 drivers joining him on track but also the F1 weather gods who made their presence felt with heavy downpours lashing the track. It was crazy race that had everything - crashes, numerous safety cars, overtakes and great racing action.

The race was brilliant and its action was desperately in F1 needed amid calls for the sport to be made more exciting.

What many might have missed in the scuffle was that Verstappen won the race while conducting five(!!) pit stops. It may seem insignificant but modern F1 races often finish with drivers performing a single pit stop (two at most). 

The rain wreaked havoc at the 2019 German GP as teams desperately changed strategies; As soon as the track dried-up, slick tyres fitted then a sudden downpour would occur forcing driver back onto wet or intermediate tyres. This pit-stop chaos continued throughout the race but it was Verstappen who took final victory, pitting five times.

Despite pitting five times, Verstappen joins many GP winners who performed multiple pits stops on their way to victory:

Jenson Button - 6 pit stops

It’s the year 2011 and Button is behind the wheel of his McLaren-Mercedes. The 2009 champion had no impact on that year’s championship; despite it being so early in the season. The title challenge was between Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), but in Canada the tables were completely turned.

The race, like this year’s German GP, began under heavy rain and behind the safety car. For Button it was a nightmare race: he made contact with his team mate (Lewis Hamilton), clashed with Alonso… he just couldn’t make heads or tails of his situation and fell to dead last following his sixth and final pit stop.

But that was his saving grace, because Button was the only driver on slick (dry weather) tyres and quickly began cutting his way through the field. What seemed like a nightmare race quickly turned into the brightest one of the Britain’s career and on the last lap he was behind race leader and eventual 2011 champion, Vettel. A fast-charging Button was all over the Red Bull and the pressure got the better of Vettel who made a mistake and spun out.

The record books show that Button performed six pit stops, but one of his visits to the pits was a drive-through penalty that, technically, registers as a visit to the pits.

Michael Schumacher - 4 pit stops

Many F1 fans will recall 2004 with nostalgia and fond memories, as it was the last year that Ferrari was truly competitive and fighting for the championships (2007 was a lucky win, let’s be honest). With Schumacher leading Ferrari’s five-year dominance at that point, the German driver started the 2004 French GP behind rival and pole-sitter Alonso, driving for Renault.

The had barely gotten underway when Schumacher dived into the pits for his first stop. His team quickly changed tyres and refuelled his car before the Ferrari man rejoined the race. During those years it was a fun exercise predicting how many laps a driver could race, judging on how many seconds the fuel nozzle stayed on the car. And so began a race that saw Schumacher perform four pit stops.

Under the guidance and watchful eye of Ross Brawn, Schumacher clawed back positions and would soon find himself ahead of Alonso when the chequered flag dropped.

When asked about the decision to go for four pit stops, Schumacher only said that the team had nothing to lose and that Brawn made the call - a call that delivered one of 2004’s best races.

Special mention

Alain Prost: Donington Park, 1993

Fans who’ve been following F1 for many years will recall the European GP of 1993, held at Donington Park. Ayrton Senna (McLaren-Ford) had a stellar opening lap (regarded as the greatest opening lap in the sport) in torrential rain; passing Schumacher, Karl Wendlinger, Damon Hill, and pole-sitter, Alain Prost for the lead of the race.

Regarded as one of the greatest wet-weather races in F1 history, the win belonged to Senna who came home first in front of Hill and his Williams-Renault team mate, Prost.

Though Prost failed to win the race, he wrote another F1 record next to his name, performing seven pit stops in a single race. Seven! To this day it is the most number of pit stops performed in a single Grand Prix.

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