Sunday, Race Week
It's 01:40 and we are in the van on our way back to the hotel. Well… that was quite an interesting day!
The morning went smoothly. We went straight to breakfast when we arrived at the track and after all of the usual checks and fire-up, it was time to strip the spare gearbox and turn it into a travelling box to bolt onto the car after the race. There is very little you can do to the car on Sunday and if anything does crop up, we need permission to make any changes from the FIA.
You will probably have seen what happened at the start of the race and I think we were all quite happy with the weather situation believing that Michael would be strong in the wet conditions. It was quite funny really. After the red flag, we ran to the car on the grid from the garage as we were allowed to change the set-up so we brought some of our spares and shims to change the ride height. Springs to soften the car and bars to soften the roll. We ended up changing a bar, springs and the ride height but we didn’t want to compromise our race set-up too much in case it stopped raining and then we might have struggled later in the race. The changes were only small steps.
We had some real bad luck in the race as far as Nico was concerned and we were gutted when Webber 'collected' him after his accident. We lost some points there and almost certainly a podium! As far as the race went from our perspective in the garage, the pit stops were smooth but we did get caught in traffic when Michael was trying to leave the box. Our chief mechanic Deany had to wait fractionally before releasing him so it might not have looked quite as good on the timing screens. Towards the end of the race, it was all about conserving the tyres which Michael did very well and came back with some good points for the team to equal his best result of the season. There is no doubt that James Vowles, our strategist, and our engineering team did a good job this weekend.
After the race, we stripped the race gearboxes and sent the parts back to the factory for service. We have to remember the guys back at the factory who service all these parts between the races. There's sub-assembly, NDT, composites, machine shop, fabrication, R&D, inspection and electronics who are all working away whilst we are travelling to and from the races and everyone in those departments helps to make our job easier. It's all about being part of a team! Nico's car was a mess after the accident and some of the guys had to strip his chassis and build the spare one due to the damage.
It was a late night and by the time we got back to the hotel, it was gone 02:00. I had a shower followed by a few drinks and then we have a 14:00 leave to go to the airport. I hope you have had an insight to the role I play in the team. Don't forget it's 'my first blog' so maybe next time I could go into much more detail.
There are so many people that need a mention in this blog who play a big part in the team especially back at the factory. The list is huge but particularly Kate and Lara in the travel department who sort out our accommodation and flights, HR, Accounts (who pay our wages!) the Design Office and designers, our aero department, parts department, Marketing, Swifty in the gym who helps to try and keep us fit, and even the cleaners that make our working area and the factory nice and clean! I apologise to those not mentioned.
The second to last thing is a big thanks to our catering crew from Rocket Foods who look after us every day at the track. They are out there before we start each day grafting away and do a great job.
Finally… to the few fans that scratch their heads and ask ‘has Michael still got it?’
In my opinion, working with him, there is absolutely no chance that he is doing this for fun as some people may think. I've worked with many drivers and teams over the years. The feedback from Michael is quite unbelievable. His memory about details of every corner, entry and exit, even on a long run, is quite amazing. If I was a betting man, then I wouldn't hesitate on backing this man next year. I get asked quite a lot ‘what's he like to work with?’ Just to round it off, he is so normal and down to earth it's untrue! Genuinely!
So this is it, I have come to an end and have about another 24 hours of travel still to go before I get home to the UK. I hope you have got some idea of what goes on and enjoyed my way of telling my story. If you want more detail then let me know I'm sure there must be feedback on the sight.
Thank you. Cracker
Saturday, Race Week
Good afternoon. It's 15:20 on Saturday and we have a bit of a breather now qualifying has finished and the cars are in parc ferme for the scrutineers to examine and check their legality.
We came in this morning and got straight into pit stop practice which went very well. Just for the record, we can sometimes get the tyres changed in just 2.5 seconds which is pretty impressive. We also practiced scenarios for very late calls for tyre sets which really gets the blood pumping. After pit stop practice, we took the car back into the garage to check for any axle damage, remove the pit stop 'cake tins' (upright carbon shrouds) as they tend to get damaged just through the amount of times that we practice. We clean all the components and refit our normal running parts ready for the third practice session. Then another full fire-up and systems test and there are no issues.
The session started at 11:00 and after our first installation lap, we came in and timed how long it takes to be ready to go again. The clock starts from as soon as we start pushing the car back until the wheels are changed and we are ready to fire up again. Approximately 40 seconds. This is very important so Shov and Bono can time Michael in and out the garage and keep him out of traffic as much as possible. After that, we didn't really go out much again until the latter part of the session as the track didn't have much grip.
After practice, we prep the car for qualifying. It's time for the final adjustments to springs and bars depending on the results of practice. Qualifying went well and we’ve got two cars in the top ten with Nico in fifth place and Michael in ninth place so we’re pretty happy considering the pace of the car at the moment.
Whilst we are waiting for the cars to come back, we normally strip the gearboxes or prepare our travel gearboxes. We need to keep one box ready to bolt onto the car just in case of an emergency.
You never know if a gearbox will have a problem like a crack or a leak until we get the cars back to inspect them. So as the cars will be back very shortly, I'm off to go and have a coffee before the last 'push' of the day.
16:30 and the cars are back. We take the wheels and floor off and everyone is looking at their particular area for any problems. It looks like the only issue that we needed to get permission to touch from the FIA was a high spot on the floor that was rubbing on the engine. Jimmy will tune that. All of the data is looked at by the engineers and Mattla plugs in to check the data from the engine side. Everything looked good so it’s a spanner check all round and as soon as everyone is happy, we put the car back together. The body work and wheels go on and the car is left in the garage overnight in parc
ferme conditions. A cover is fitted and sealed by the FIA and just for good measure every car has a camera fitted to the overhead gantry. This is just so the FIA can keep an eye on things so there is no chance of any team doing extra work without them knowing about it.
We left at 18:30 and the traffic was unbelievable. One hour later and we are still not back at the hotel.
The hotel is in sight one and a half hours later and it's shortly going to be time for a shower, shave and another chance to get to see a little bit of nigh life and have a good meal (hopefully) with a few drinks and maybe a dance who knows! It's a civilised start in the morning so it will be nice to go out and get a good night’s sleep. Speak tomorrow.
Good Morning. It's Race Day and it's raining! This might make things interesting? Last night we went out for a Korean BBQ. It was a ‘cook your own style’ but they only had one type of meat which claimed to be pork. I'm not sure what it was but we ate it with some salad and veg. So far, so good, no bad stomach. After dinner, we went to a bar for a few drinks and I'd be confident of saying half the pit lane were there. No dancing but after a natter with lots of old faces, we went back to the hotel just after midnight and got a good night of sleep.
It was an 8:50 leave this morning due to the start time of the race at 15:00. The FIA will come at 10:00 and unseal the cars. We will do our fire-up and usual full systems check and hopefully if all is good, we will be able to strip our spare gearbox and prepare it as a travel box for after the race. Let's see what happens. Speak later.
Friday, Race Week
Good evening from our hotel at 22:45 on Friday. We had a reasonable day at work and a very busy evening getting the cars prepared for tomorrow. The day didn’t start particularly well as we were a bit late getting to the circuit this morning due to an accident and the volume of traffic on the only bridge to access the area where the circuit is located. They are building another huge bridge but at the moment, it’s just a series of concrete pylons across the sea with no road!
So as soon as we arrived, we were straight into the morning fire-up which involves running through all the gears and systems tests. Everything was fine so we had time for a quick breakfast and then it was straight into our final pit stop practice of the weekend. Everything happened quite quickly this morning so it didn't seem long at all until the first practice session kicked off. It all went pretty much to plan and the only serious complaint from Michael was just how slippery the pit lane was outside the garage. The painted surface was causing problems for drivers up and down the pit lane too.
After the session, we took the floor and gearbox off to make some changes. There was time for a snack at lunchtime while Shov and Bono worked out the new gear ratios and Cobley put them in. I had time to inspect the rear of the car and a quick spanner check, then the car was soon all back together.
The second session seemed to go smoothly with just a few set- up adjustments required. We had a minor temperature issue on the rear suspension which required some changes and again the session had finished before we knew it. We went straight into the evening turnaround to get as much done as possible before dinner. We fitted the race gearbox and changd the uprights for a different specification. It was quite a big job and we finished about 22:00 which is not too bad considering the work load. We were all pretty tired by now with the jet lag taking it toll and it’s hard to concentrate on writing this evening! Speak to you tomorrow.
Thursday, Race Week
Hello 'Race Fans' and welcome to my blog from the Korean Grand Prix. It’s my first ever blog so I hope you will be patient with me! My name is Martin McCracken alias 'Cracker' and this is my 14th season in Formula One. I am the rear end mechanic on Michael’s car.
I’m going to give you some information about this weekend that involves and affects me. I will try to be honest and forthcoming but I also need to remember this is a family blog! I hope it will not be edited too much… just the spelling and punctuation please!
So the first thing that you need to know is that there are at least a dozen people who help me to do my job in one way or another. This is why it’s called a 'team' sport. I should probably start off by saying that everyone in the team has a nickname. Why? Who knows why?! We just do.
Meet Michael’s car crew:
Spag - No.1 mechanic
Leroy - Front end mechanic
Petal - Front/Mid/Rear mechanic
Jimmy - Composites
Cobley - Gearbox/NDT mechanic
Reedy - Hydraulic mechanic
Timmi - Car Data Controls technician
Duck - Electrician
Marki - Engine build
Justeen - Engine build
Mattla - Engine controls
Harris - Tyre technician
Goat - Garage technician
Leppi - Parts coordinator
Shov & Bono – Michael’s engineers
Deany - Chief Mechanic
These are the team members who run Michael's car but we can't forget Nico's car crew of course. We all work very closely together and use both crews for pit stops during the race and sometimes during qualifying. If there is a big problem on one car, then we will all ‘muck in’ and help out if our chief mechanic makes the call. I work closely with Beefy who does the rear end on Nico's car as we have to be happy that all of the builds are identical. We have a rear end for Friday and another for Saturday and Sunday. Then we have a first spare ready to go and often a second spare dependent on the parts available.
So I need to keep in touch with the guys all of the time and communication is essential. Are the right ratios in the box and is the ballast to specification before it gets bolted on? Check with Cobley. Is the 'Duck' happy with the electronic components? Is Timmi happy that the electronics are reading correctly and have been calibrated properly? These are just a few things that can cause a big scene if missed and it might mean the whole car has to come apart again.
I’m writing this part of the blog on the bus from Seoul as there is going to be a lot of work to do at the track this weekend. Let me tell you how our travelling has gone so far…
I left my house at 10:00 on Sunday and arrived at the factory for 10:40. Our coach was half an hour late so we got away from Brackley at 11:30 and arrived at Heathrow around 13:00. After checking in, I picked up some duty free and grabbed a quick pint with lunch. We were on the plane by 15:00 and on route to our first stop in Dubai. The first leg was just over 6.5 hours with a 3 hour wait in Dubai followed by the second leg to Seoul of 9hrs. From Seoul to Mokpo, the closest town to where the track is located, is a 5 hour drive and we arrived at the hotel at 21:30 on Monday evening. So from leaving the factory to arriving at the hotel, it's been a very tough 26 hours of travelling.
After we arrived, it was a quick shower and change and we popped out to see the local night life, have a few drinks and get some food. It ended up being a very quiet night and I was able to catch up on some sleep, getting around 8 hours, which is a bonus!
On Tuesday, we went into the circuit at 13:00 and started unpacking our kit. We have a set-up crew who fly out a day earlier to start setting the garage up, so by the time we arrived, everything was coming along nicely. After a quick bite of lunch, each car crew started work on their car. The cars travel with dummy floors and frames on the flyaway races so they are protected during transportation but once these are off the car, it is pulled apart and we prepare to re-build them. We left the track at 18:30 tonight and the car was looking very bare. The front had been stripped by Leroy, I had stripped the gearbox, Spag was into the fuel cell and Petal had stripped the race gearbox and started preparing the spare gearbox. As we left, it was looking like there was a lot of work to do on Wednesday.
We were back to the hotel by 19:30 and by 20:00 we met downstairs and went out to dinner. We had some very nice local food with a few drinks. It’s good to get out with all of the boys and we always have a good giggle! It's still very quiet in town so we managed to get back around 23:00 to the hotel.
We are leaving at 08:00 so another good night’s sleep ahead.
We had a 08:45 start on Wednesday and made our way to the circuit in our crew bus. We were late unfortunately as we had a local driver who seemed to have disappeared so Spag is now behind the wheel of our van. It takes around 30-40 minutes to get to the track if we can remember the route… fingers crossed! Along the run, we pass loads of fish markets which have a smell that can only be described as ‘bad’ in this family blog! The town seems relatively quiet but quite clean and the roads are in reasonable condition but if this was at home, I think the council would be busy and there would be a lot of roadworks around. Between Spag and Leroy navigating, they do a good job and we make it to the circuit. There is still a lot of machinery, diggers and cranes around and it looks like there is a big push needed to get the venue ready on time. We will find out very soon if they manage it. It is 09:15 so I had better get on. Speak later!
Good evening! It is 20:00 and we have just got back to the hotel after a busy day. It seemed to be just a straightforward rebuild but unsurprisingly, it turned out not to be as simple as that. As the box had been stripped, it’s a good time to inspect it for any abnormalities such as cracks, wear and delamination especially from the areas close to the exhausts. Preparation is an important part of the re-build for all of the components. 80% of bolts fitted are lifed parts and need to be checked for cracks at certain mileage intervals. Most bolts need a particular lubrication and most have a loctite specification to prevent anything coming loose. We managed to get the engine and gearbox and most of the freshly serviced parts on but it's going to be a busy one tomorrow!
Back to the hotel for 20:45 for a shower and change… ready to see what happens tonight!
So it’s now Thursday morning. We went out for dinner last night and found a nice pizza restaurant. I’m not sure the local style suited everyone as the pizzas didn't have much colour to them but they were hot. The salad bar was great and I ate lots of local fish eggs, cold meats and fruit. All of this with a few beers was great and I managed to get another sensible night’s sleep.
08:50 and we’re at the circuit. As I said yesterday, it will be a busy day getting the cars fired up and set up and then going to the FIA legality patch and checking everything is legal. There are loads of checks to carry out on the chassis side and engine side so we got on with those throughout the morning. Lunch was at 13:00 and as usual, it was awesome. I had chicken and some tiger prawns with salad. It's also a good opportunity to have a sit down for 20 minutes!
Around 15:00 we had the floor on the car and soon after that we were working on the set-up which came together very nicely. The set-up involves adjusting the toes, cambers, ride height, free travels, springs, dampers and corner weights according to the specification that Shov and Bonno provide on the set-up sheet. The next activity was to prep the car for pit stop practice at 17:00. Then we went straight to the FIA legality patch to check the car was legal. They check the bodywork, the front and rear wings, the floor, the wheel to wheel width and the weight. We are allowed 10 minutes to make all of these checks so very often there is a queue of cars waiting their turn. So you can imagine if are 10 cars in front of you, it's not a good thing!
By 18:30 it was dinner which was very nice once again. After that we did some more checks on the rear wing and once we were happy, it was time to leave at a very reasonable 19:45. Back at the hotel for 20:00 and after a shower, I watched a movie with a beer and just relaxed for the evening. Lights out at 23:00 for some more sleep.
Friday morning and it’s quite fresh at 06:50! Our crew bus has left the hotel 10 minutes earlier than the others so we can get on with getting the pit stop car ready which is Michael's car this weekend. So it will be quite a busy start right from the beginning of the day with pit stop practice at 07:45.
It will be a busy day and might be quite a late night but I will report back tonight on our way to the hotel.