Austria 2018 - GP Preview - Mercedes
The results of the last races show that it’s all about the details – this season more than ever. Marginal gains defined the outcome of the race in both Montreal and Le Castellet and you need to get every detail right in order to win. On paper, we should be in a good position for Austria; we had the fastest car in France and we have shown good performances in Spielberg in the past. But you cannot take anything for granted this season, the performance of the top-three teams is too closely matched. This makes the 2018 season a great spectacle for the fans and an exciting challenge for the teams. We need to keep pushing hard and keep bringing performance to the track.
We’re going to Austria leading both the Constructors’ and the Drivers’ Championships, but we know that we will once again get every detail right if we want a chance to win the race – and, in Valtteri’s case in particular, he needs luck to go his way a little more than we have seen in recent races, because he hasn’t had the results that his performances should have earned. The relatively short lap in Austria makes the circuit challenging as it closes up the field in qualifying and will make the margins even tighter. We will aim to hit the ground running as qualifying is particularly important because overtaking has historically been tricky despite the long straights – although we need to wait and see if that changes this year with an additional DRS zone.
Personally, I’m looking forward to returning to Spielberg. The track holds a very special place in my heart as I did my first laps at the old Österreichring when I was young. After Formula One returned to the track in 2014, it quickly became one of the favourite places of the entire F1 calendar, not the least thanks to the upgraded facilities and the excellent organisation of the event.
Featured this Week: Tackling the Triple-Header
Formula One has embarked on the first triple-header in its history. Three races in two weeks, meaning F1 fans are experiencing more racing than ever before. But, at the same time, the triple-header presents a number of challenges for teams, especially when it comes to logistics.
How much equipment does an F1 team bring to a race?
When F1 teams pack for a race, they follow the same rule that we all know from our summer holiday: bring everything you need, but pack as light as possible. Every non-essential piece of equipment sent around the world creates unnecessary costs for the team. However, at the same time, competing in F1 requires a lot of equipment and items to be transported to races. For a European round of the F1 schedule, the team will usually travel with several vans and 27 trucks. Nine of those are race trucks that carry about 45 tonnes of race equipment; the other 18 trucks carry the motorhome.
What kind of equipment does the team bring?
While the pit buildings provide the basic layout for the garages, that’s about it. Everything else – from the wall panels to the engineering station – is part of the equipment teams bring and set up. Nine trucks and numerous vans carry all of the equipment that is used in and around the garages – for example car parts, the PETRONAS fuel lab, the engineers’ office, driver rooms, 160 wheel rims, IT racks and support material - from floor cleaner to tool boxes. For the triple-header, the team uses two different garages. The garage from France will travel straight to Silverstone, while Austria will mark the return of one of the five sea freight garages of the team. This one was last used at the Chinese Grand Prix and arrived back in Brackley three weeks ago, where it was serviced before it was shipped to Austria and is now being built to be ready for this weekend. In addition to the garages and the race equipment, the team brings its motorhome to all European races. The motorhome has many uses, from hospitality and event space to offices and meeting rooms. It offers up a total floor space of around 540 square meters across three floors (180 square meters each). In total, the motorhome is made up of 30 containers that are transported across Europe from race to race.
How long does it take to set up the motorhome?
In preparation for a regular race weekend, it takes a crew of around 30 people three days to construct the motorhome – time, the team simply doesn’t have during the triple-header. So, for both Austria and Silverstone the crew has been doubled to a total of 60. Disassembling the motorhome in France started shortly after the race and was finished on Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the chequered flag had fallen at Paul Ricard. It took the fleet of 18 Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks 14 hours to transport the motorhome to its next destination, Spielberg in Austria. The so-called ‘grid’ (the metal framework that is used as the foundation of the motorhome) was the last part to be disassembled in France. However, the grid is also the first part that was needed for construction in Austria. So it was loaded into four Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, which are faster than the big trucks to make up a bit of time on the journey. Thanks to the bigger crew in Austria, building the motorhome shouldn’t take much more than a day to complete. Setup started on Tuesday in the early afternoon and followed the same process as at every race, despite the need for additional speed. The team started by measuring the exact space of the area where the motorhome will be positioned, using highly-accurate lasers to level the foundation grid. Once the grid had been built, the 30 containers were installed. In addition to connecting the walls and floors, the electrics and the air conditioning systems also need to be connected. In total, about two kilometres of cabling are hidden behind the wall panels of the motorhome.
How are the pit garages set up?
For a regular race, a crew of between 25 and 30 team members start with the initial set-up work, which includes building the garage and setting up the race trucks which house the engineers’ office and driver rooms as well as the tyre storage, a doctor’s office and other areas. For the triple-header, additional personnel have been drafted in to help with the setting up of the garages. They arrived in Austria on Friday and started the build process on Saturday. The race team joined them on Tuesday morning to finish the garage construction, so the mechanics can start working on the car by 15:00. The set-up work on the engineers’ office started on Wednesday in the early morning and will be finished by nightfall, so the engineers can start working in their office on Thursday morning.
What’s the biggest logistical challenge of the triple-header?
The triple-header creates a lot of challenges, but the biggest one is traffic. The schedule is already extremely tight if everything goes according to plan and all the trucks arrive on time. If they are stuck in traffic and run late, it can very quickly become impossible to stick to the original schedule. In order to minimise the time spent on the road, there are two drivers on every truck so they can take turns behind the wheel. For the almost 24-hour long drive from Austria to the UK, an additional driver is required. The first two drivers will take the trucks from Spielberg to Ghent in Belgium where a well-rested driver will take over, cross the channel using the Eurotunnel, and drive the truck to Silverstone.
What about the triple-header challenges for team members?
While the triple-header will push the team to its limits, it’s expected to have a smaller impact – both mentally and physically – than the late-season flyaway races. However, the triple-header will contribute to people being more fatigued later in the season. The main priority to battle that is sleep. Fortunately, there is just a one-hour time difference between the races, so the effect of jetlag will be minimal. In addition to sleep, physical activity and a healthy diet are helpful in maintaining and consolidating stamina.