That F1 break? It doesn’t exist for the teams

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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.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.