by Caroline De Beaumont

Mexican Grand Prix: Globe-trotting mechanics

Far beyond the public gaze, Formula 1’s army of mechanics play an absolutely crucial role in the sport. From car set-up to mid-race tyre changes, the outcome of grands prix very often rests in their hands.

The sport’s media might tend to overlook them, but race mechanics constitute a fundamental element of teams like Renault Sport Formula One Team, forming as they do a solid and highly-trained unit. Each driver has the same set of mechanics allocated to his car throughout the season.

There are eight in total – a chief mechanic, three number twos, a gearbox specialist, a hydraulics specialist, an electronics specialist and an all-rounder,”  explains Paul Seaby, Renault Sport Formula One Team Race Team Manager.

Not only do these mechanics look after the car at the track, but they are also the sole members of the team that work directly on the car back at the factory. No sooner have they returned to the team’s base at Enstone in England after a race than they strip the car down in its entirety, with each component being sent on to a specialist department. They subsequently manage the reassembly process, using new or modified parts, before getting back on the road for the next grand prix. To describe their schedule as intense would be quite the understatement...

 

The mechanics are confronted with two overriding challenges. First of all, they must be capable of handling a heavy workload and consistently meeting unwavering deadlines, while at the same time performing to the best of their ability and doing a first-class job. Beyond that, there is the personal challenge they face: Formula 1 mechanics spend around 170 days per year on the move and far away from their families, which makes it a real art to strike a healthy balance between their personal and professional lives,”  adds Paul Seaby, Renault Sport Formula One Team Race Team Manager.

Would it not be possible for two alternating teams of mechanics to share the responsibility of looking after each car?

That’s a tricky one, because the secret behind engineering a dependable, reliable car is continuity – so ideally, we don’t change our teams of mechanics. That said, if the number of races on the calendar continues to rise, it might become an option that we have to consider...”

In order to ensure that mechanics get sufficient sleep on grand prix weekends, the sport’s governing body – the FIA – prohibits their on-site presence at the circuit between midnight and 8am, barring two ‘jokers’ for each team over the course of the season.

There is, of course, one instance in which this tightly-knit group of mechanics performs its duties in full view of the sport’s fans, in front of literally millions of television viewers – during pit-stop tyre changes, which involve no fewer than 27 people in a carefully rehearsed and millimetre-perfect operation:

Not a day goes by when the mechanics are at the factory that they don’t carry out a pit-stop simulation,”  says Paul Seaby, Renault Sport Formula One Team Race Team Manager.

It is perhaps little surprise, therefore, that they need barely two seconds to change all four tyres on either Nico Hülkenberg or Carlos Sainz’s car!

The above offers a brief insight into the delicately choreographed ballet performed by Formula 1’s mechanics. Make sure you don’t miss the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, October 29 to witness them in action.

 

Tags: renault sport f1