The time has come and the first European race is here and that means the work of the F1 hospitality crews really starts. Every Motor home is loaded and packed and sent on its way to the circuit de Cataluña.
For me this means a flight on Friday to begin work on the Saturday. As you wake on that Saturday morning it doesn’t cross your mind that maybe something is not going to arrive or a truck may have broken down. You take it for granted that everything you need to work will be there ready and that even counts for the crew members themselves!
The first time the Motor Home is built away from base is always a long drawn out affair. There are always bits and pieces here and there that didn’t get finished or fixed at the factory. To add to that this may be the first time that it has been fully put together since it was built for the last European race the year before!
For our crew this was exactly what happened and on top of that we experienced what it is like when those things you take for granted don’t fall into place as they should.
The first thing to happen was the discovery that one of the crew vans had been broken into on the Friday night. A rear window had been smashed but luckily nothing was taken. This means a trip to the police station and the task of getting the window fixed. In our case the crew vans stay with us all season and are obtained from Germany via a vehicle lease scheme. For this reason the vans are badge with a German number plate. In any other country a brand new van with foreign plates just means tourist. Effectively that is all we are so the vans are always a bit of a target.
Crew van vandalism is not a new thing either. There have been many things happen to vans over the years. One year a particular van was too big for the hotels underground car park so had to be left on a side street a few blocks away from the hotel. When eventually it was needed again it had been keyed with the tyres deflated and several tickets in the window!
Each time this happens it means not only trying to find a place to have repairs done but done in time and with minimal impact on other crew members who are needed to work. Somebody has to be taken out of the build to make arrangements, liaise with insurance people (who mostly do not speak English) and plan works
The second thing that happened was our support crew who arrive a day later than ourselves was involved in a road traffic accident on the M4 on the way to the airport. The result was the guys had to first get to the airport only to miss their flight and find out that the only remaining flight was at another airport. Travel to that airport and reserve tickets to find that the reservation was cancelled and stay in an airport hotel to fly the next day. Once landed in Spain drive straight to the circuit and begin work effectively 3 hours late.
This kind of thing only highlights the need for a strong and effective team. A team that can cope with these unexpected ‘add ons’ and still get the main job done on time. Yes that means that the first day of the build was a 12+ hour day in the hot sun with a couple more late finishes but nobody is going to thank you for having a incomplete Motor Home come Thursday morning. Once the cameras roll on the paddock everything is shiny and looking its best. There is no indication of what is sometimes the struggle it has taken to get to that stage.
This particular post is focusing on the Motor home but have you ever considered what would happen if the race car transporter broke down or fell off a cliff. If the plane carrying the freight for a fly away crashed into mountains? Every other week you turn on the TV and you expect your favourite team and driver to be on the grid come Sunday and for many years this is exactly what has happened but it may not have been as straight forward as you think to put them there.
This is Ben signing off till next week.