Tuesday, 30 August 2011
Nowadays, one comes to think of the Paddock Club as referring to the well-heeled guests and sponsors of the teams, receiving fantastic hospitality and exclusive access to drivers and garages in return for a four-figure sum. At MVR we were occasionally able to give away Friday tickets to lucky fans, but sadly that's the exception rather than the rule.
But I prefer to think of the volunteers that give up their time to allow any motorsport event to take place as the real Paddock Club, so here's a shot of the glamorous conditions just one storey down from its more opulent namesake. Trestle tables and cool-boxes are the name of the day, rather than linen and champagne buckets, but I suspect the guys are perfectly happy with their lot. You don't get to be a marshal at an F1 race without giving up time to go through a great deal of training, and there's usually a lot of officiating at club events (and in the UK that means putting up with very cold conditions) before moving up to the big stuff.
To all the marshals out there, thanks. Our sport couldn't function without you.
Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Tuesday, 23 August 2011
First of all, an apology for the quality of these pics. I probably should have taken a decent camera with me, but when you're in a working environment you kind of feel guilty about snapping pics of the stars in a quiet moment. So I never used flash, and the rooms or garages where the drivers congregate are always starkly lit, making photography from any angle tricky. That's especially true when trying to be a bit subtle, and when using an iPhone.
But still, not many people get to see drivers just before they get on the truck to do their parade lap, so I offer these as a sample. Let me know if the series is worth continuing.
Tuesday, 16 August 2011
I really liked the article in F1 Racing recently about DRS 40 years ago (Thanks for that, Jimmy, Hans et al) especially as I was around in the 60s to see the cars running with ludicrous wings - I'm especially thinking of Jo Siffert at Brands Hatch here.
At the Nürburgring, by the entrance to the paddock, Mercedes were displaying two W196 cars from 1954. One was in standard open wheel form, the other was fitted with pristine "slipstream" bodywork. This was the German company's strategy for dealing with drag on the faster circuits like Reims and Silverstone. The two cars were both beautiful, but it's the streamlined one I'd drive, given the choice.
While you can't really call it DRS, as it's not operated by the driver, it was one of the first attempts in F1 to deal with the different aero needs of various circuits. Then, as now at Monza, the main reason for this is to reduce one of the forces that are reducing the acceleration of the car - in this case: aerodynamic drag.
On a more typical circuit, the exit speed of a corner is more critical at determining the amount of time spent to cover the length of a short straight, so teams focus more on increasing that exit speed by using maximum downforce.
On an infinitely long straight, you would not run any more downforce than is necessary to keep the car from lifting at speed, and the car would accelerate more quickly along the straight than if it had a High Downforce set-up.
So the question becomes - where is the crossover between focusing on corner exit speed as opposed to Vmax - maximum speed (Velocity also includes the concept of direction, but as we are talking about a straight line it's ok to use the terms interchangeably. Well, I think so!).
In this totally fictitious example, let's look at two extreme set-ups, comparing the speed of a car exiting a given corner and accelerating down a straight (all other things being equal). You can probably imagine that the Low Drag set-up will start to bring dividends if the straight is about 700m long, or longer. But if there is only one long straight at the circuit, like Shanghai, the advantage on the straight will be more than negated by the time gained by using a high downforce setting over the rest of the circuit.
Which is why it's only at circuits like Monza and Montreal that we start to hear about "low downforce" settings; although I'd really prefer to talk about "low drag", as that's what we are aiming for. We would still want to maximise corner exit speed, but not at any price. Increasing downforce increases drag with any given wing, hence the need to reduce downforce - but we'd keep it if we could.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Reims and Silverstone were both circuits consisting of long straight pieces of tarmac where the corners were defined by where the straights crossed. And Mercedes' response to this was to build special bodywork. It wasn't until the late 60s that focus switched to increasing corner exit speed.
As usual, nothing is straightforward. At Silverstone, oil drums were used to mark the edge of the circuit. But Fangio could not see exactly where they were, so on his way to winning the race, he would occasionally get too close and tap one of the drums, denting the bodywork and almost certainly reducing the aerodynamic advantage. So it goes.
|Sorry, I don't know who to credit for this photo, if someone does, please tell me!|
Thursday, 11 August 2011
It's always interesting going to a country you've never been to before, and Malaysia certainly falls into that category. I'd been to Hong Kong, and so I was expecting to see quite a few neon lights, but I wasn't expecting the extravaganza that the hotel presented me with when I arrived at night.
First up was a full size elephant (African, judging by the ears) calmly leaving the lobby, and ignoring the Ministry of Sound club on its left. On the other hand, perhaps it was only leaving because it was offended by the tiger ripping an antelope (or whatever it is) to pieces in one of the many fountains.
But I suspect it was actually headed just round the corner, to the shopping centre that's part of the hotel complex (as is a water and "scream" park, but we'll leave that for now). After all, when a shopping centre announces its presence with an über-lifesize Sphinx, complete with eyes that light up, you know you're in for a special shopping experience. Westfield please take note.
Two days later, I was forced to follow the elephant's route when I discovered that I had only packed team trainers, and had no other shoes with me. As Saturday nights plans included a sponsor dinner near the Petronas towers, that simply wouldn't do.
Sadly, the inside of a Sphinx is very similar to a UK shopping centre. Apart, perhaps, from the ice rink. I did manage to find some nice shoes though. In fact, I'm wearing them now.
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
|Cars and bodywork stored Thursday night in Hungary|
At a time when people in the UK are locking things away and pulling down the shutters, it seems appropriate to look at what happens when the doors come down in an F1 garage and the cars are put away for the night. For Marussia Virgin Racing, the procedure is slightly different on Thursday/Friday compared to Saturday, because of the Parc Ferme conditions.
On Thursday and Friday, there is no requirement for the cars to be covered when they are not being worked on, but of course they are - otherwise that speck of dust that crept in unnoticed might end up somewhere it shouldn't. The covers are made to measure and also prevent unwanted eyes from seeing the car and on Friday they are fitted just before the mechanics scoot off to the hotel for the night, which can be as late as 01:00 without breaking the curfew that was imposed this year.
On Saturday though, there are more likely to be guests and sponsors around after the covers go on, as work must stop 4½ hours after Qualifying starts; typically that's 18:30 local time. As one of the highlights of any trip to the paddock is a garage tour, it would be very frustrating for guests that have been invited for dinner in the motorhome if they can't actually see the cars - which are clearly the stars of the show. So a kind of transparent net cover is used, which is also sealed via a cord/cable as required by the FIA (there's also a camera in the pods above the cars to ensure no illegal work goes on) but the general result is that the guests can still see the cars.
|Panorama shot (click to expand) early Sunday, Hungaroring|
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
Monday, 8 August 2011
On the Thursday before a race, there's usually a signing session where the drivers rock up to sit and sign autograph cards and programmes for fans that are lucky enough to get close. In Hungary, Tabatha and I took Timo and Jérôme down to the sharp end of the pitlane and while T&J were signing cards, I tried to hand some out to some of the fans behind the barriers who were obviously never going to get close.
But that's apparently not allowed - the security guards stopped me from handing out cards to people that weren't in the official queue, so my only resort was to throw a load of cards into the crowd of fans. Not as satisfying, but at least it spread the MVR word a bit further!
It was pretty much the same story for the pitlane walkabout. The guards put up a load of barriers to stop fans getting too close - they don't do this for the Paddock Club walkabouts as there aren't so many people around.
In germany, @JonnyBowersF1 and I had managed to give about 20 impromptu garage tours to small groups of fans who showed an interest in the team - it didn't take long before a queue started forming. I firmly believe that F1 teams should try harder to get fans closer to the action. It's not impossible - usually. In Hungary though, security would not let us do it. I only managed it once, with a bit of local help from Brigi (aka @brigi00) who did the translating (and was lucky enough to win two Paddock Club tickets for Friday as a reward for that, and for writing a guide to Budapest for us).
When a fan from the UK who had been in touch over twitter, sadly I can't remember his name, turned up and I wanted to show him round, I wasn't able to do it. His son's sad face was enough to make me dash for the motorhome to dig out two caps. That helped a bit and I also figured, well, why not take their camera and take some photos in the garage, so at least they'd have something. They thought it was a good idea and handed over their camera and I went and snapped a few photos. Walking back to the barrier, I realised what I'd done. There were tens of cameras being proferred. I handed one camera back, and took another two into the garage. I settled on three shots, front three-quarter, side and cockpit with steering wheel. It's always one of the favourites.
Turning back to the crowd, I realised I had no idea whose cameras I was holding. Fortunately, the owners did. For the next 20 minutes I was just taking photos on other peoples cameras and handing them back, and I think I got them all right. I wouldn't have minded keeping the Nikon D300 though, the owner looked very worried when I waved goodbye at him!
F1 can't allow everyone access, but my view has always been that if you do what you can, the fans will appreciate it. Last year, I managed to get passes for a few fans that otherwise would have had no chance of seeing behind the scenes. It's by no means easy, but it's very worthwhile when it works.
Friday, 5 August 2011
As soon as it stops raining, the trucks are wiped down so that they don't have watermarks that will last throughout the weekend. There's an immense amount of pride taken in how the garages and trucks look, scruffiness is not tolerated. At the Nürburgring, teams weren't allowed to paint the floor of the garage and everything looked drab as a result. Attention to detail counts.
Thursday, 4 August 2011
In Germany, an HRT was being pushed backwards by the team's mechanics, rather close to where we would have been exiting the pits - the yellow markers are where we stop. Fortunately we weren't planing to stop then, but if we'd had to, we would have lost at least a couple of seconds. Which would, of course, only have been relevant to the other HRT...
Wednesday, 3 August 2011
Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Now after starting MVR (for I can refer to them as that now) on the social media path and handing over the reins, it's time to perhaps get back to the idea of propogating views and photos to the few people in the world who might be interested. But seeing as I agree with those journalists in the paddock that say there are too many blogs re-processing the same stuff, I'll probably just restrict myself to trawling through my old iPhone photos that for one reason or another never made it to Twitpic. Or maybe they did and I think they're worth looking at again. Either way, this should at least be a more permanent and searchable resource.
As a symbolic photo, this post has the final shot I took with MVR. Packdown from the pitlane.