Feeling the Burn in the Lotus Garage
Lotus F1 Sponsor Burn Energy Drink, part of the Coca Cola family extended an invitation to me to experience Free Practice. I met Fleur Foster, Lotus account manager at the garage entrance and she escorted me in. While she briefed me on the rules and handed me my headset, we chatted about her role and what she does on a typical GP weekend. Fascinating stuff.
Being able to listen in with my headset to conversations between engineers and drivers was special. What was immediately apparent however was how challenging it was to understand the messages. They weren’t so much cryptic as they were short. I honestly expected the audio quality to be a little better too. After a while though, I had sharpened my listening skills and was able to follow along. At one point as I was joined by some sponsor guests.
I took a quick look around the two garage bays to survey and take a mental snapshot. There are 8 TV flat screens, one on each outside wall, four along the front just about the garage opening to the pit lane and two along the back.
Just before FP1 commenced, the garage came alive. There was a flurry of activity, tyres being prepared, Fuel being regulated, final checks and balances. The starter motor was inserted and the Renault power plants came alive. Despite the complaints over the lack of “noise”, I can assure you that there was plenty of noise in the confines of the garage walls. As the cars left with a low-end grunt the sound fizzled into a hum like grumble, much like what I imagine it would sound if Barry White was gargling.
Immediately, there was chatter between drivers and engineers and information bounced back and forth as the drivers felt out the circuit for the first time this season. The drivers were asked to try different settings in different parts of the circuit. The cars returned quickly to the garage for slight adjustments with tyre pressures and various settings. I enjoyed watching the whole process which reminded me of a well-choreographed dance performance. The car is lifted, placed on a dolly, tyre temperatures are checked and the brakes are cooled immediately. The car is then wheeled into place in the garage and the real work begins. A Pirelli engineer does some analysis, tyre pressures are checked, a fuel sample is taken and fuel is either added or removed for the next run. A representative/engineer from Total is also on hand to observe and analyze. The tyre warmers are then placed back on top of the tyres to retain some heat before they come off again and the drivers head back out.
At one point, I counted 12 mechanics around Pastor’s car. It was interesting to observe that engineers/mechanics were intensely scrutinizing the left rear of both cars. I was unable to determine what components were possibly causing the concern, although I suspect it had more to do with just the effects of the circuit on the car.
Here are a couple of bits of information you might find interesting;
- The electric tyre blankets heat the tyres to approximately 100 degrees Celsius. There is an unmistakably unique smell that emanates from the tyres even when still in their cozy blankets.
- Telemetry collects at a rate of 35Mb per minute. It may not appear to be much in a world of Gigabytes and Terabytes etc… however imagine how much data is collected over a race weekend for both cars.
A big thanks to everyone at Burn Energy drink and Team Lotus for a great opportunity.