For years the F1 quick lift jack was a simple humble tool used around the garage and at pit stops. Since pit stops have become an ever greater part of the team’s performance during the race, the jack has come in for increasing levels of development. As powered jacks are no longer allowed, teams rely on a hefty pull from a mechanic to lift the car and gravity to return the car to the ground. Improving this process has lead to most teams adopting a similar quick-release swivel jack. At first a complicated looking piece of kit, the jack is still a simple device when reduced to its component parts.
Teams use quick lift jacks for the front and rear of the car at pit stops. As the front jack needs to be out of the way before the car can leave the pit, it needs to be the more complicated of the pair. Although the release mechanisms tend to be fairly similar front and rear.
At the pit stop, the front jack will already be in position, as the car stops the jack is lifted to allow the wheels to removed and refitted. The jack is now only at chest height and dropped to the ground. This allows the mechanic to keep a strong grasp on the handlebars. During the stop, the front jack man is readying for the cars exit, the jack handle pivots to allow him to move to the side of the car. When the front wheels are refitted and the wheel gun operators signal that the wheel nuts are locked in place, the mechanic pulls a lever to release the front jack, the lifting pad drops away, pivoting on the axle and the car drops quickly to the ground. The mechanic can now pull the jack away to allow the car a clear exit.
In this process two key solutions are required for the jack, firstly the sideways pivoting handle and the quick drop mechanism. These are recent innovations in F1 and most teams follow the same principles.
The jack is formed of several key components, the lifting pad, the handle (and handlebars), the axlewheels, the pivot mechanism and the release mechanism.
The lifting pad is the part that slips under the front wing and lifts the car, this is typically a carbon fibre part, with foam padding to protect the wing and reduce the impact of the car hitting the jack, as the car stops in the pitlane. The pad is hinged on the jack and small springs on the back edge keep the pad from tilting out of position.
The handle provides the front jack man with the leverage to lift the front end of the car. Although the front axle carries less than half of the cars +640Kg weight, if the rear jack is lifted before the front jack, then even more mass will be placed over the front axle, making lifting even harder. To aid the jack man, handle bars are fitted. For Mercedes last year this included a pair of branded Mountain bike handlebars, more typically this is just a simple length of tube. The handle is curved to allow the handlebars to be at chest height when the jack is in the lifted position.
To allow the jack to be manoeuvred in and out from under the front wing, small nylon wheels are fitted, their axle forms the main pivot around which the handle and release mechanism swivel.
Removing the lifting pad and wheels shows how the jack’s mechanisms work. This generic jack is made from tubular & sheet metal, as well as machined aluminium sections for the release mechanism. Although teams do vary the construction and materials used.
The jack is formed in a horseshoe shape; this horseshoe is secured to the handle by the release mechanism at the top (rounded) section and lifts the car at the tails of the horseshoe. As previously mentioned it pivots around the axle on bearings. The jack handle also pivots on a clevis and bearing, the bearing being concentric with the horseshow shape, this allows the handle to be pivots sideways whilst still having the release mechanism engaged. Some teams fit a ‘stop’ on the outer rim of the horse shoe to prevent the mechanic pivoting the handle too far and making it more difficult to pull the jack from under the front wing at the end of the stop.
We can see the release mechanism attached to the jack handle keeps the horse shoe section from dropping until the latch is released. The latch operates much like a door latch, when it’s retracted the horseshoe section swings forwards to drop the car to the ground.
The release mechanism is latch held in place by coil springs inside the cylindrical housing. A simple cable pull the latch in to release the jack, the cable runs up inside the jack handle to the levers under the handlebar.
In Valencia the first jack was pushed under the front and the latch mechanism appeared to fail as the jack was lifted. As is normal procedure, the spare jack was pressed into service t complete the pit stop. McLaren say they have altered the detail design of the jack for Silverstone and have completed over 800 test pit stops with the new set up without any failures.
The Jacking process
1) Jack under the front wing, release mechanism latched
2) Car jacked up
3) Release lever pulled, latch closed and releases the horseshoe
4) Horseshoe pivots and drops the car