Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Travelling to the Track in Style

Each team has up to 100 of its personnel attend the race meeting. Their methods of travel vary according to role and status – hey, Formula One teams don’t operate on socialist principles. Most of the mechanics travel by standard scheduled or specially chartered flights to the airport nearest the track. Typically, a team of scouts arrives a day or so early to organise hire cars and mini-buses that pick up team members from the airport. Senior engineers and commercial high-ups may travel business class – or even first class, along with the team boss. But then again, the team boss could well be travelling on board his own private jet. Most of the top drivers travel by private jet, too, but you do get the odd down-to-earth soul that insists on travelling commercially, Jaguar’s Mark Webber being the most notable. But then, he’s an Aussie and has little time for the trappings. At the venue, the drivers are given a road car to use. These cars come from the manufacturer the driver’s team is in partnership with. The McLaren drivers, therefore, drive around in Mercedes-Benz; the Ferrari drivers in Fiats or Lancias; the Renault drivers in Renaults; the Toyota drivers in Lexus’, and so on.
At some race locations, the journey from hotel to track may be too long or traffic-infested for the convenience of drivers or team bosses. In these cases, chartered helicopters are use instead of road cars. The top hotels these people stay in invariably have helipads, as do all the circuits.

Monaco – the Formula One drivers’ home

No single place is more associated with Formula One drivers than Monaco. Its glitzy reputation, with the famous harbour front and Casino, fits perfectly with the playboy reputation of racing drivers. So you probably won’t be surprised that almost half the grid lives there. Monaco offers more than just glamour, though. It is the home of many drivers for the following two reasons:
Most importantly, of course, Monaco lacks an income tax. Drivers can keep hold of as much of their wages as possible. The career of a Formula One driver is incredibly short and it is important they save as much as possible for their retirement.
The climate is great. The year-round good weather means that drivers can go out running and cycling every day – it’s definitely easier to get fresh air when the sky is blue and the sun is shining than when it’s pouring down and cold in London or Paris.

Home Is Where the Car Park Is

With a very hectic lifestyle and almost no time to themselves, it’s no wonder that racing drivers love their home comforts. Although the bigger name stars could demand that they stayed at the Presidential Suite of the best hotel nearest the track, some of them actually prefer to keep themselves confined to their own motorhomes.
Former world champions Jacques Villeneuve and David Coulthard both have their own motorhomes driven around Europe to all the Grands Prix. These aren’t your simple pop-up camper vans, of course. They’re full of all the luxuries that the drivers would have at their homes: big television screens, computer games consoles, stereos, and big beds. Some drivers’ motorhomes even include their own gym equipment so they can keep in shape if they get bored in the evenings or wake up too early in the mornings. The drivers don’t bring these motorhomes to show off; they simply want to make life as comfortable as possible. They don’t have to worry about checking into hotels; they don’t have to deal with noisy neighbours, and fans can be kept at a distance.

Getting a little relief from the heat

In some particularly hot races, like the Malaysian Grand Prix near the start of the season, drivers wear special water-cooled vests that offer some respite from the heat. In addition, the teams do everything they can to help the drivers. When the driver is in the pits or on the grid, he’s often given a special cooling fan to direct cold air into his face and into the cockpit. And Formula One drivers are often only too happy to have a pretty girl holding an umbrella over their car before the start of the race to keep the sun away. The drivers’ helmets are also designed to get as much cool air as possible to the driver. Each helmet features special cooling vents in the forehead and mouthpiece areas that the drivers can open or close depending on how comfortable they feel. Drivers also love to open their visors during pit stops to allow even more air in and may even not shut it completely when they are out on the track – although that is always a risky business because of the danger of debris flying into his helmet.
To keep the driver as hydrated as possible, in the cockpit is a water bottle that’s linked to a tube that leads to the drivers’ helmet. Formula One drivers have to be careful not to drink too much too early, however, because they could get thirsty in the closing stages of the race. Sometimes these water bottles have been known to break and either rattle around in the cockpit or empty out completely in the drivers’ face – causing him more problems than he already has to cope with.