F1 wheel guns are truly amazing. Find out why

Popular Mechanics managed to snag a behind-the-scenes tour to figure out how those iconic wheels and guns actually work.
Christopher McFadden
F1 wheel guns are made by Dino Paoli.

Dino Paoli 

Formula 1 pit stops are not just about changing tires or refueling the car; they are a critical part of the race, and the perfect pit stop can make all the difference in securing a win. The pit stop can be a game-changer in a sport where the difference between first and second place can be mere milliseconds. And behind the pit stop is a team of more than 20 mechanics working together to service a single car in seconds. Wheel guns are essential to making fast, reliable, and safe wheel changes.

But who designed them, and where are they made? Popular Mechanics managed to get a behind-the-scenes tour to find out.

All ten Formula 1 teams on the grid use wheel guns from Paoli, an Italian company that Dino Paoli founded in 1968. Paoli's wheel guns are also used in American racing series such as IndyCar and NASCAR. The company began manufacturing air-powered impact wrenches for general automotive applications, but everything changed in 1975 when there was a meeting with Enzo Ferrari, which marked Paoli's entrance into motorsport. Paoli currently sells its Hurricane 2.0 for around $10,000, but F1 wheel guns can cost upward of $20,000–$30,000 with all the add-ons that the teams will make.

The materials used to make Paoli guns are high-performance and usually only seen in the aerospace industry. The Paoli gun is made from an aluminum alloy that includes zinc, magnesium, copper, and trace amounts of other elements. Materials like titanium, carbon fiber, and aerospace-grade steel are also used. Paoli uses very little carbon fiber in the latest version of the "Hurricane," its latest model.

Instead, Paoli uses aluminum, which is more robust and precise. Paoli is also one of the few wheel-gun manufacturers that fabricate and assemble all of the internals of their guns in-house at their factory in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Paoli's Formula 1 wheel guns are designed for speed and consistency. While many new Formula 1 fans often notice that the cars use a single lug nut, according to Andrea Ori, a technician at Paoli, this is not just for speed but also to give the gun itself a better interface with the wheel nut to put down its savage torque and speed. In addition, racing teams are searching for the fastest pit stop possible and consistency. The aim is to have 80 percent of pit stops under 2.7–2.8 seconds, so consistency is more important than speed.

While the perfect pit stop is a team effort, the wheel guns are integral to making wheel changes fast, reliable, and safe. Paoli's wheel guns are high-powered versions of regular impact guns and mechatronic spaceships that are made to be consistent and reliable.

They are essential to achieving the perfect pit stop and have come a long way in just a few decades. In a sport where every millisecond counts, the ideal pit stop can be the difference between victory and defeat

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