Ron Meadows, Sporting Director
Sunday, Race Week
Finally race day has arrived at Silverstone. I left home at 6:30am this morning to be sure that I would miss the legendary Silverstone traffic… only to find that I was lonely on the roads and there was no traffic! Well done to Silverstone for a very impressive level of organisation this weekend.
There was a pit lane walkabout scheduled for 7.30am this morning which is when the paddock club guests are able to come into the pit lane and look at the teams at work in their garages. There weren’t too many guests about at that time but we were happy to get there early and open the garage doors up. The cars are not released from their overnight Parc Ferme conditions until five hours before the race so they remained covered up in the garage until 8am when the mechanics arrived and got to work.
Race day morning is always busy with a number of scheduled meetings to decide on our final plans for the race. The first meeting is with Ross, myself, James (our strategist) and the two race engineers Shov (Andrew Shovlin) and Jock Clear. The drivers join us at 9.15am and then we have a general engineering briefing to update everyone on the plans for the day. Finally the drivers join Ross and I for a sporting briefing to go through any new regulations such as the amendments to the safety car rules which are effective from this weekend.
Today was particularly busy in the garage as Silverstone is such an important weekend for the team as one of our home races. As well as our team partners who were having tours with members of our marketing department, we had a few VIPS with us for race day. The guys in the garage are used to seeing many celebrities at the races but even they were impressed with our Olympic line-up today of the legendary Michael Johnson, Amy Williams (British Skeleton Gold Medallist) and Tom Daley (British World Champion Diver). Time can always be found for photos when the stars are of that calibre!
So looking at the race, we decided that we would make only one pit stop as the tyres had very low degradation and could go the distance. Both drivers made good starts and we decided to pit Michael early so that he could have some clear air and show his true speed as he was being held up. Nico was racing with Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso so this was a more difficult decision about when to pit but fortunately we made the right decision in keeping him out for a few extra laps and he ended up in front of both of them.
Unfortunately Michael had a small track excursion on his out lap where he lost some time and that allowed a couple of drivers to get ahead of him. Still he drove a strong race from there and showed decent speed during parts of the race. Nico finished the race on the podium in third position which is a reward for all the guys at our factories in Brackley and Brixworth. After a few difficult race weekends, this was just what we needed and although we are not where we want to be on performance yet, we are heading in the right direction.
Saturday, Race Week
I finally got to bed at 1:15am this morning due to the workload after Friday’s practice sessions but this is the norm for most of the teams and we are well used to the long hours. I arrived at the track feeling quite optimistic about qualifying today but first we had the final hour of practice at 10am. This is the session where we concentrate on qualifying simulations so that the drivers and engineers can try and extract the maximum performance out of the car for when it matters later in the day. Our session ran well with Nico finishing in fourth position and Michael in eighth place.
Qualifying started at 1pm so we only have two hours to prepare the cars after practice. Fortunately the job list was not too big today and the cars were ready to go with 15 minutes to spare. We even had time for a few of the team’s VIP guests to have their photo taken with Michael’s car whilst the guys were waiting to take it onto the FIA patch for scrutineering.
Qualifying is a fairly stressful hour for the team as there are many opportunities to get it wrong! The three sessions are incredibly intense and it’s all too easy to not get your car out in time or send your driver out in traffic or when there is a yellow flag so you cannot push. Today, Q1 went fairly smoothly with both drivers getting through without any dramas. Q2 was quite tight but Michael and Nico got through safely to the final session.
Nico chose to do two runs in Q3. The first run was on used option tyres from Q2 and the second run was on new options. He had a good lap which put him in fifth place on the grid, just pipped by a last-gasp Lewis Hamilton effort for fourth place. Michael chose to do one run with two ‘timed’ or quick laps. His first two sectors were very impressive but he made a small mistake in sector three so he had to push for a second lap. This started off well but the tyres were gone by the middle of the lap which combined with a couple of mistakes meant that he ended up in tenth place. This was a great shame as he had the potential to be in fifth or sixth position if he could have finished his first timed lap.
So all in all, it was not a bad day and certainly an improvement on our qualifying performances from the last couple of races. We know that our race pace is good and we can race hard from where we are so bring on Sunday!
Friday, Race Week
Whilst eating my cornflakes at breakfast in our motorhome, the BBC weatherman said it was going to be a beautiful day with a high of 27 degrees at Silverstone. Great news for us as we had many new parts to try out today and a wet day would have really affected our programme. And it was great news for the 85,000 fans who came to the track today to watch the two practice sessions. It was great to see the grandstand opposite the pits almost full today as that’s not always the case on Fridays at many of the venues that we visit.
We have two ninety-minute practice sessions on a Friday and it’s a very busy and intense time for everyone as it is our main opportunity to evaluate the set-up, tyres and fuel loads for the weekend. This morning’s session went well with Michael and Nico completing their scheduled run plans without any issues. They both complained about the bump at turn 11 which is where the old track joins the new section. Silverstone is on every driver’s list of favourite tracks and thankfully it seems that the new Arena complex has added to the challenge rather than detracting from it. The track was really dusty on the new section which took about an hour to clean up so we didn’t see much action in the first half hour. Both cars ran reliably and we finished the session with Nico in sixth position and Michael in ninth place.
The afternoon session was also positive. Both drivers felt that the changes that we made during the break had improved the car and they felt more at ease on the new circuit layout. Our pace on high and low fuel was competitive but we still have plenty of work to do tonight if we want to qualify in a good position tomorrow. The wind was pretty gusty out around the circuit and a fair few cars went of the track when the drivers were caught out on the corner entries. Nico finished the session in fifth place with Michael just behind in sixth position.
Once the second practice session has ended, the mechanics have a fairly massive job list to complete before they can think of finishing for the day. It’s a really hard physical day on a Friday with an early start, the two practice sessions and then often a very late finish. The job list includes changing the engine, gearbox, brakes, rear suspension and many other components and setting up the cars to the requirements of the engineers. Hopefully we will be finished before midnight and the guys can get off to their homes for a few hours sleep.
One of my responsibilities on Fridays is to accompany Michael and Nico to the FIA Drivers Briefing at 5pm. Attendance is compulsory and there is a fine if a driver is late so I always have to prise the drivers away from their engineers to make sure we get there on time! The meetings can last anything from three minutes to an hour depending on what happened at the last race and if there are any issues to cover. Today’s turned into quite a lengthy one with discussions on the safety car concerns from Valencia. Charlie Whiting who is the FIA’s Technical Delegate chairs the meeting and he does an excellent job and explains all of his actions and any issues in an open and transparent way.
Work in the garage is going well as I write so overall it’s been a good day.
Thursday, Race Week
Greetings from a rather dull and overcast Silverstone on the first day of the British Grand Prix weekend. The sun is threatening to put in an appearance this weekend which would make a nice change as Silverstone usually has its own microclimate which is a few degrees cooler and windier than anywhere else nearby!
I joined our team back in 1998 when it was created as British American Racing so I’ve been here through our various change of identities and all of our ups and downs. In my current role as our Sporting Director, I have a wide range of responsibilities from working closely with the FIA and FOTA on the Sporting Working Groups to managing our race team and being the team’s point of contact with race control during the running sessions.
The British Grand Prix is my favourite race of the year. It’s just down the road from our factory in Brackley, eight miles to be precise, and the fans here are always so knowledgeable and turn up in their tens of thousands every day. Our race team guys love the race as they can sleep in their own beds and there is no flying involved!
Thursday is generally a busy day at the track as there is often a fair amount of work to do on the cars and today was no different. The cars left the factory on Wednesday afternoon so we fitted the engines at the track yesterday and completed the rest of the preparation work this afternoon. Today was also the opportunity for the team to bring their family and friends into the paddock so we had the chance to meet some new faces with some of the guys becoming fathers for the first time over the last year.
Today was a day of meetings. First I attended a test committee meeting with all of the other teams and then a Team Managers meeting with Charlie Whiting from the FIA where there was much debate about the safety car issues in Valencia and some very good ideas were discussed which will help to clarify and improve the regulations going forward. We also have several engineering meetings on Thursday as we decide the car specification and the set-up changes that we want to try during the two practice sessions on Friday.
At the end of the day, we had our first pit stop practice of the weekend so the guys can start to get their eye in for the weekend. We’ll have two further practices before Sunday to ensure that we’re ready for the race. I’m very proud of our pit stops and our guys regularly perform the quickest pit stops of the race.