The first test of the year is always a bit of a wake up call after a winter away from the track. The car is new and comes with all the challenges of any brand new piece of high tech kit but thankfully I don’t really have to worry about any of that (other than hoping it’s quick and reliable). For me it’s more a case of making sure I’ve remembered everything for the driver.
When I first started work in F1 every race lap was like a qualifying lap. The driver pushed flat out lap after lap, came in for fuel and tyres, went out and pushed again. It was physically incredibly demanding. Regulation changes meant refuelling was banned from 2010 onwards and because of this, training an F1 driver became much more focused on weight management. The cars had in reality become physically easier to drive with a full tank of fuel at the start of the race and the car weight had increased with the introduction of things like the KERS system. Any weight saving was priceless. Last year however saw a big rule change created by a combination of more downforce and wider tyres. The result? A lot more grip! From a steering point of view the power assistance tinkering means the steering loads remained similar but the increase in cornering speeds meant there was a lot more G-force and load on the neck.
All trainers and drivers were aware of this change and I’m sure you saw many articles related to driver workouts last winter along with trainer and team comments. For us we had experienced these levels of grip and G-force in the past. Like all other drivers we still had to prepare for this last year. The body adapts quickly to new demands and like any sport the most specific training is the sport itself. F1 is no different and the more laps we can do in the car the more the neck will adapt and strengthen. The problem with modern day F1 is each driver only gets 4 days testing before the first race in Australia. Compare this to my first year in F1 in 1997 where we did a 14 day Barcelona test as well as others leading up to the first race and you get a big difference in the amount of “sports specific” training!
In the end, 2017 didn’t prove to be an issue physically or cause any real problems. For the 2018 season there haven’t been any big changes. The cars are more an evolution of last year but we are expecting faster lap times again with more downforce which will cause once again an increased workload for the drivers.
Our biggest challenge as trainers? Making the driver strong enough, which generally equates to an increase in muscle mass, whilst trying to keep the engineers happy who want the driver to be as light as possible so they have options to move ballast around the car.
In 1998 we reduced the number of screws on the car windscreen from 6 to 4 to save weight in the car! (but David Coulthard was still wearing his Tag watch… anything for the sponsors!)
So what else does the first test mean? Kit time! As you can see from the video we get a lot of team kit for the year. My aim through these regular articles is to show you the sorts of things you wouldn’t normally get to see and give you more of a glimpse into my world of F1. Looking at the weather forecast here in Spain this week the rain jacket could come in handy!
Welcome to my world of F1 – through these regular write-ups I will show you the sort of things you wouldn’t normally get to see and give you more of a glimpse into what is happening behind the scenes.