The Last Day……
After three days of testing the car at a relatively empty circuit we come to the fourth and final day. At this point there have undoubtedly been 4 long days and nights where you feel that you have done nothing else but work in the garage or lay in bed with the ratio of bed to work being heavily bias towards work.
The final day is the last day you will be working in the garage and you can look forward to having a few drinks in the bar later and you will, providing there is not another test straight after be going home the next day. But before you can enjoy that drink there is a lot to do.
As always there will be a plan for the day and just because it is the last day does not mean there is any less that needs to be tested but even though there is a full day ahead there are opportunities to save time in the evening to make sure you get to that bar or bed quicker. This does mean that your day may be even busier than it has been in the last few days but the results are worth it. This is achieved by ‘stealth packing’.
During runs which by the end of a test should hopefully be longer runs of 10 plus laps you can be packing away certain things that are not going to be needed in the evening as the car will be stripped and packed away. For example your tyres will be nearly all used up leaving a number of trollies, temperature control boxes and tyre blankets ready to be put back in there boxes.
Only items that are behind the scenes are touched. The front of house is left untouched so from the pit lane things look normal. In the paddock however the tail lifts on the trucks are down and flight cases are pilling up ready to be loaded.
As the final hours of the test draw close it has also been known for the garage bannering to begin disappearing leaving the rear of the garage completely open plan.
One important point to make is that you need to time what you are going to pack away with a good amount of accuracy if you are needed once the car returns to the pit box. You may for example be one of the fan guys that places a cooling fan in the brake ducting or the tyre man that has to come and take garage pressures etc. You do not want to be loading a flight case into a truck when your supposed to be in the garage!
As well as stealth packing there are other tasks a foot. All the spare parts and used parts for the test have to be sorted and packed. Unused parts may be staying in the truck as they will not be needed until the next test. Used parts must be identified as to what is going to happen to them for the next test. Every part that is made and used on the car has a ‘life’. This is how many kilometres it can safely run for before it is liable to break. Every part has been logged from the time it left the factory to the time it went on and came off the car. This data gives you a measurement of how long it has been used for. During any parts life there are scheduled check points much like your family car has service intervals. Some are minor like a visual check or others are more in depth and this means that it must return to the factory for deeper analysis. A few member of the team will be parts men and it is their job to make sure all parts are logged, tagged, wrapped in bubble wrap or bagged and sent to the right place. This may be in the trucks that are returning to the factory or if they are needed asap then in a van that night. These guys could be sorting well in excess of 100 different parts and when the paddock and garage are filling with boxes this can become a very complicated process. Add in the parts that come of the car as thats packed away and its even more demanding.
At the end of running and the car is pushed back to the garage for the last time the pack up the real begins.
The cars data is downloaded and fuel drained out as the car is prepared for a strip down. As the mechanics work on the car methodically removing parts, often helping the parts guys by cleaning and logging parts as they are removed the rest of the garage is taken down around them. The ‘overhead’ module being the last thing to come down as this holds air lines and power outlets and extra lighting. It is also directly over the car.
Rims and tyres have to be stripped by Pirelli then brought back to be cleaned and packed away. Gearboxes have to be stripped and all parts once again logged and packed as does the power unit.
At this point the garage can be a very hectic place where there are parts and boxes all over the place. Engineers are relegated to the floor or the trucks as any desks or tables are packed away.
Slowly but surely the chaos subsides. The car has been fully stripped, put on its loading frame and awaits loading. This frees everybody up to pack whats left. At this point the rate at which cases are loaded increases dramatically as nothing needs to be left out for the car.
After around 4 -5 hours on a good pack down the garage will be empty and all that left to do is have quick sweep of the floor. The team manager will give a quick debrief and give details on leave times from the hotel the next day etc.
The rush to the vans and the hotel now ensues and its your time. From personal experience i would say that its better to go back, have a shower and pack before you do anything else. You may want to lie down and if your plan is to go to bed than thats okay but if it is not then this can be a dangerous act and you may well fall asleep in your dirty sweaty team kit before you have done anything else and have to pack up franticly the morning of your departure.
This is a round up of the last day. If it is the start of winter testing you may have a few more tests to do and this routine will be repeated again. If it is the last test then there is a sense of relief and if your team has performed well on track a feeling of positive anticipation for the season ahead. The last test falls not long before the first race so some team members may not feel like they have had a break at all and the routine of flights, hotels and garages continues all the way through the year. These guys are dedicated and operate at a professional level so they can work at the same level all year. This is why any member of a F1 team has to be dedicated and have love for racing.