Fast and furious – all in a day’s work

IT’S not all breakneck speeds, multi-million dollar contracts and being sprayed with champagne. Okay, there is rather a lot of all that, but peer into the paddock of an F1 team and you will also find dozens of dedicated individuals beavering away at their jobs.

I went behind the scenes at a grand prix to see how newcomers Virgin Racing ensure everything runs smoothly, from driver Lucas di Grassi, to marketing man Jeremy Scoones to sponsors, like FxPro’s Jim Manczak.

“Nervous doesn’t really have a meaning for me in motor racing any more. I’d get nervous if I had to jump out of a plane with a parachute or something, but here I know what to do.

“I get excited, I get the adrenaline rush, but it’s pretty much routine.

“For a European grands prix we normally fly in on the Wednesday. Thursday we work on the car and Friday is a proper test day – we spend the whole day trying to improve the car, make it faster and more reliable.

“Every day I get up at 7am, we come to the track at about 8am and leave at 8pm. All the time you are doing something; there’s no time to relax. You go from testing to the engineering room, then try to stretch before the next session, and that’s it. I don’t find it easy to switch off. The whole time is very intense on the mind – you must be focused, alert to every single detail, because each one matters a lot.

“When I get back to the hotel, I’ll have a shower, maybe if I have time I’ll watch a movie or check the internet, and that’s it. It’s very lonely. You don’t get a routine and you are never in one place – I had to break up with my girlfriend because I was barely seeing her. It’s part of the life. I do this because I love racing, because I love Formula One. We always stay in good hotels, we are very well treated, we have pretty much everything we want.

“During the weekend I try to eat better and more. You spend a lot of energy on driving and talking and thinking, so I try to eat properly and keep up energy levels for the race, which is the key moment and the most exhausting. I eat cereal in the morning, pasta pretty much every lunch, and protein in the evening. Before the race we have a lot of energy gels and isotonic drinks.

“Maybe half an hour before the race I go to my room and stretch – my legs, my back, my neck – I spend maybe 20 minutes stretching. I don’t listen to music. After the race, if it’s a good one, we have a big party. If it’s a bad race – it happens, we just have to make sure it goes better next time.”

“A group of truckies go ahead of the team, set up the garage wall and infrastructure and paint the garage floor grey (so you can spot leaks). On Wednesday the mechanics arrive and start on the car, which is stripped down before transit and then checked and reassembled.

“The engineers arrive Wednesday evening or Thursday morning and start checking that all the sensors, the electrics are working. And that’s when marketing and all the other support functions come in as well. All the way up to the last minute there are parts arriving which have literally just been designed and completed.”

“I arrive on Thursday, Friday everyone’s kind of getting settled in, and Saturday is one of the most thrilling days and a good opportunity to walk the pit lane and view the other cars.

“On Sunday everyone just sits back and enjoys the race. Literally as soon as the chequered flag comes down, everyone is packing immediately, and within three or four hours everything is on the truck. It is amazing.

“Sporting-wise, the race is the culmination of the weekend, but from an entertainment perspective, it’s very fun to go to the afterparties on Sunday night.”