Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back to the track

The driver returns to the track with his new set-up. If he finds that the problem hasn’t been cured at all he may return to the pit and ask for the necessary changes. If oversteering is the problem, for example, and changing the downforce didn’t help, the driver may suggest that the front-suspension be altered to see whether that makes any difference. After several more laps –and several more pit stops – the driver may finally be happy with the performance of his car.

Working through problems in the garage

After the car is pulled back into the garage the driver speaks to his race engineer to let him know his feelings. (The driver speaks to his team through special radio systems that allow quick communication.) The race engineer talks through the options with the driver and the two may, for example, simply decide that he needs a little more downforce on the front of the car. Decisions must be made quickly during practice because practice time is limited. It’s also important that the driver be happy with the car before qualifying or the race.

Arrival and initial laps

The driver gets dressed into his racing overalls and turns up at the garage, putting his balaclava and helmet on just before he climbs into his car. When the session starts he often goes out onto the track for a reconnaissance lap before returning to the pits. This lap allows the driver and team to check that the car is working fine and that nothing is broken and that there are no fuel or oil leaks. The driver then goes out for a handful of laps to see how the car feels at speed. During these laps he may find, for example, that the car is understeering (the front of the car slides more than the rear in corners) so he returns to the pits to tell the team what he thinks.

A typical practice session

To make sure that the car’s ready when it counts, it’s vital that the team and driver work perfectly together in practice. The driver must communicate well with the team, letting them know just how the car feels and whether any changes they’ve suggested have made a difference. The following sections explain what goes on between a Formula One driver and his team during a typical practice session.
Sometimes drivers only do short runs with light levels of fuel to simulate the conditions of qualifying. At other times, the team will fill the car up with petrol and will want the driver to run for more than 10 laps to work out how the car feels in race conditions.

Wednesday for F1 Driver

Another day of testing, although a driver may be able to fly home this evening to get ready for the following week’s Grand Prix. Big teams usually have one or two test drivers who help ease the workload on their regular drivers, because there’s no point getting their stars completely shattered before the next race.
Despite everything else he has to do in his life, being fast in a racing car and working with his team is still the most important part of a Formula One driver’s job. At the end of the day, a Formula One driver is the single person who determines whether the team wins or loses. He is the one risking his life out on the track, he is the one who decides how the car should be set-up, and he is the one who gets the credit – or the blame – for how things go on Sunday afternoons.

Tuesday for F1 drivers

ess than 48 hours after the Grand Prix, the Formula One driver is back in the cockpit, working hard on developments and improvements for the next race. The teams will be experimenting with new parts or different set-ups to try to make the car even quicker. Testing a Formula One car is a relentless job, and the track usually stays open from 9 a.m. until darkness. After that, the driver usually spends a few hours with the team, working through a technical debrief of the test, before dinner and then maybe an interview with journalists. (Many drivers prefer to do major interviews at tests because there’s a lot less pressure on their time; the only time anyone gets to speak exclusively to Michael Schumacher is at a test.)

Monday fro F1 Drivers

If a driver is lucky he’ll wake up in his own bed on Monday morning –but it’s back to work straight away. Even though he’ll be tired and maybe a bit sore from the race, he has to go to the gym for a few hours to make sure he stays in shape. Monday afternoon, if he hasn’t been called up for a sponsor function, he’ll fly out to one of the European tracks to get ready for that week’s testing schedule.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday for F1 Driver

Race day is by far the most important, and busiest, day of the week.While in the past, drivers could just turn up a few minutes before the race started, jump in their cars, and then head off home as soon as the chequered flag came out, that’s no longer the case. And if the driver can’t get a helicopter into the circuit he could find himself having to get up even earlier to beat the traffic jams caused by the fans.

Saturday for F1 Driver

Saturday is a very important day, because what happens today decides the grid for Sunday’s race. The driver attends two practice sessions in the morning and then a warm-up before he actually qualifies his car. He has to make sure that everything is absolutely perfect with his car because he has only one lap to get his time in – if he makes a mistake and spins off the track or suffers a mechanical problem he could find himself starting right at the back of the grid. If qualifying goes well and the driver’s time puts him in one of the top three positions, he attends a special press conference, broadcast all around the world. After this press conference he must attend more debriefs with the team and then even more press conferences. If an evening function has been planned for Saturday night, he must attend that, as well, although these don’t run too late because the driver must get a good night’s sleep before race day.

Friday for F1 Driver

Practice starts very early on Friday morning, especially if the driver’s team has signed up for the extra two-hour test session. The driver usually gets to the track at about 8 a.m. (after having already spent maybe an hour in the hotel gym) and runs through the day’s programme with the team. (See the next section “Keeping Busy during Practice” to find out what goes on during these sessions.) The driver spends most of the rest of the day in practice and technical debriefs, when the team evaluates the set-up of the car and its performance. Afterward, he attends even more press conferences. Amidst all these other responsibilities, the driver completes the first qualifying round, which decides the running order for Saturday’s main qualifying session. In the evening, he usually attends another sponsor function, which can run on quite late.