It’s a season of firsts this year. The first time Red Bull Racing will defend two world titles and the first time India will appear on the calendar. At Race 2 in Malaysia, where we may have a fairly high number of stops, we spoke to our lollipop man Darren Nicholls about the first time he released a car from a pit stop back in 2000…
“My first pit stop with the lollipop was in 2000, when I was chief mechanic on the race team for Jaguar. It would have been at the first race of the season, in Australia, which wasn’t good, because it’s one of the smallest pit lanes of the season! There’s not much room and invariably it gets very busy – you tend to get a lot of film crews running around.
“My abiding memory is one of fear. It was terrifying, not only for myself, but because you’ve been entrusted with the safety of the crew – and your actions could contribute to the result. It was one of those things where you’re thinking ‘don’t put anyone in hospital’ and ‘do the best job you can’. The first time you do it, it’s not a pleasant feeling. I really can’t remember the driver, whether it was Johnny Herbert or Eddie Irvine, but I do remember it being a long walk out to get ready for the stop. You’ve got all these scenarios going through your mind. And you’re almost playing through the pitstop before you even take part in it.
“Afterwards, I remember walking back into the garage and everything being like a blur, because the thing had taken, with refuelling in those days, about seven or eight seconds. You walk back in the garage and think ‘that was it?’. The only thing I can liken it to is last year, I was very fortunate to be nominated to go to the podium in Hungary. It was a similar experience to that. You know you’re up there, but it’s almost an out-of-body experience. You can see the boys down below and they’re celebrating, but it’s like you’re completely disconnected. It was a similar feeling.”