The unseen warriors of F1
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ARMIES CARRY ON WITH BUSINESS OF RACING WHILE POLITICS RAGE ON
Formula 1’s movers and shakers — the politicians, commercial rights holder, rule makers, some team principals and even drivers — have been in the spotlight over the past few weeks. But, like many a dispute, war or confrontation, the core business carries on.
In Formula 1 that core business is racing. And to go racing, every team needs an army of people to get the cars and drivers on the grid. Some armies are larger than others, but all are populated largely by unseen warriors who toil on regardless.
They include mechanics, hospitality staff, truck drivers, tyre and fuel men, electronics engineers, tacticians and myriad other support staff at the track and at the team bases.
Manor F1 team principal and proud Kiwi Dave Ryan gave me a brief insight into modern-day F1 and the challenges faced by a team trying to re-establish itself after years of under-funding and lacklustre performances.
These challenges are magnified when the “flyaway” races are on and then transition to the European season, as is the case with the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi (a “flyaway”) to the Spanish Grand Prix (a European “road trip”) for the equipment.
That 27 tonnes of equipment is not scheduled to arrive back in the UK from Sochi, courtesy of Formula One Management (FOM) until midday on Tuesday May 3, so will not be at the Manor Racing home base until some time later on that day. “Top” teams have their freight delivered on Monday.
Chassis are quickly stripped and sent to the paint shop for a repaint, taking about 36 hours before they return. All parts have to be serviced or replaced and then the chassis is rebuilt.
The five semi-trailers needed to transport that equipment to the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona have to leave Britain on Friday May 6. That journey time is complicated by the French ban on trucks travelling on Sundays.
To put this in context, the McLaren F1 team has 24 trucks travelling to the European Grands Prix simply with the motorhome or “Brand Centre” equipment, in addition to the six trucks needed for the racing team operation.
The first tranche of workers arrives at the Barcelona track on the Sunday before the race to start assembling garage walls and offices, electronics, fuel store, engine and gearbox people, engineers’ rooms and media.
Space is at a premium when a team is at the “wrong” end of the pit lane and the garage layout is carefully planned to optimise use of the space. A separate team has already visited to paint the floors in team colours at a cost of around $10,000 a team.
Under an agreement made to try to curb the cost of Formula 1, teams are allowed only 60 operational staff at each race, excluding catering, media, trainers, marketing and hospitality staff, from Thursday morning before the race until two hours after the finish. A daily curfew is applied to these 60 personnel. In Bahrain they had to be out of the paddock by 4am, otherwise severe penalties were applied. The curfew lasts for eight hours each day pre-race. The rush for the exit at four minutes to curfew time is a sight to behold. That rush is reversed in the morning.
Larger teams have found ways around this by having up to 100 people back at their bases, connected to the team garages by high-speed data stream. Manor Racing has a similar arrangement but with just a handful of people.
The team will hopefully have a good weekend at Barcelona but the work will not stop when the flag drops. After a race the mechanics will work into the early hours stripping the chassis of engine and gearbox and those components will return to Mercedes in the case of the engine and Williams Advanced Engineering in the case of the gearbox, to reappear at the next event. The garage area also needs to be stripped down to travel.
The first European event at Barcelona will not be a normal race for Manor as it has a two-day test scheduled straight after the event.
Each team is allowed a limited number of “filming days” for promotional purposes and Manor will be using that facility after the test before everything is packed up and is transported to Monaco for the next event.
What is the same and applies to all the teams, big or small, is the dedication and hard work of the personnel.
It is the soldiers in the team’s armies who carry on regardless with the core business of racing while the politics rage on.
The folk at Manor Racing, in the form of Ryan and chief mechanic Pete Vale, are compiling a diary of what it takes to get the team and the cars from Sochi to Barcelona and the amount of work a small team, with limited resources, a limited budget and a finite amount of time has to go through to get those two cars on the grid.
I will bring that to you soon.