After months of waiting, F1 fans were treated to two races in two weekends as we descended firstly on Melbourne and then Kuala Lumpur seven days later. Now facing two baron weekends without a Grand Prix, it’s easy for the viewing population to forget that for an F1 team, these aren’t just a couple of spare weeks off.
Formula One factories are a hive of activity twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, whether there’s a race happening or not. At any given moment, night or day, there’re people beavering away in one corner or another trying to find improvements or manufacture parts for the upcoming events.
Wind tunnels are a massive area for F1. Models of up to 60 percent in scale are used constantly throughout day and night to try out new ideas, track specific aero packages and work through setup sweeps. This year, more importantly than any other, the available tunnel time will have to be shared between updates on the 2013 cars and design and development of the new and somewhat radical 2014 cars on the ever looming horizon, so it’s crucial to make the time count.
The relative breathing space between races gives the teams their first real opportunity to evaluate, and if deemed worthy, replicate, interesting areas on competitors cars, as well as manufacturing their own planned updates.
Whatever the aero, simulation or engineering departments decide to take to the next Grand Prix as updates or race packages, the drawing office need to design for full scale, produce the technical drawings and see them through to production. Manufacturing can be anything from carbon fiber molding and trimming, machining, fabrication or casting of exotic metals, electrical or electronic component production, 3D printing (stereo lithography) or the sub assembly of a variety of parts.
All of these parts have to go through some form of detailed inspection or bench testing, before being eventually passed to the build departments or race team to go onto the cars.
In between most races with a gap of some sort, the race mechanics you see on TV each Sunday taking part in pitstops, will strip the two race cars and all of their components will be distributed around the factory’s various departments to be serviced.
Meticulously cleaned, inspected and tested, in some cases with the cars even repainted, the mind boggling array of pieces and sub assemblies are returned to the race bays to be built back up into two race cars once again.
Each driver’s mechanics build up their own cars and at the end of the week, pack them up to be shipped off again to the next event, where they’ll follow on close behind to unpack them at the other end and start over again.
So if you’re frustrated this weekend that there’s no F1 on your television, just spare a thought for the guys and girls at each team, for whom the three week break is really no break at all.
Marc Priestley can be found on Twitter @f1elvis.