When you tune in to see a Formula 1 race on a Sunday, for alot of the people on the teams, the hard work is over. We have been there since Tuesday setting up garages, prepping and building the cars. After Friday’s practice the cars are taken into pieces again and rebuild the same night so its ready for P3 and qualifying Saturday. 5 long, hard days of work have been put into the cars and now it’s handed over to the drivers.
One of the things I was most excited and most terrified about at my first race in F1, was going on the grid. On TV it looked like one big organized chaos! Media, celebs, drivers, entourages, VIP’s, mechanics, engineers and truckies are everywhere. I always thought to my self “how can these guys concentrate? how do they know what to do at what point?” Before my first time on the grid the guys on my team told me that it would be crazy but that I just had to stay calm and do as the No. 1 mechanic said. Easy right?
After the sighting lap the drivers come back into the pit and drive through, that’s when we go on the grid. Imagine 200 people with different equipment all trying to get to the grid as quick as possible. There is only a small gate for everyone to go through and when my No. 1 said GO, I tried to follow the best I could. I had a low stand and a rear jack with me, it seemed impossible not to hammer into people and I kept smiling and apologizing to the other guys but it didn’t seem like they noticed it was completely normal to them. Everyone had a dead focused look in their eye and me accidentally pushing them a bit didn’t seem to get a reaction so I figured it might be more efficient just to go with the flow instead of stopping up and let them in first while apologizing for my existence.
The grid was as crazy as expected. People and drivers everywhere! I have watch Formula 1 for years and always been a fan so it was a bit weird for me how quickly you don’t notice and don’t care to be honest, when drivers like Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen walk passed you. Ten years ago I would have jumped with excitement but F1 gets very quickly de-glamourised when you work in it. When I got to the car I was back to focus, luckily the routine on the grid is exactly the same as in the garage, only different; if you fuck up everyone is gonna see and if you fuck up bad enough the car might not make it to the start. No pressure right? I try my best to take some deep breaths, not thinking about all the people that are looking and just get on with my work. You are on the grid for a while so at one point I looked up and tried and take it all in. It’s always been my dream so taking a moment to look up and realize where I was touched me a little. It’s fantastic. Beautiful really… all the cars lined up, all the smiling fans, kids seeing their heroes, adults seeing their heroes, all the mechanics having one last look over the car before game time. All the hard work has led up to this moment. Not just the people on the race team, but hundreds of people have put their blood, sweat and tears into these cars back at the factories and it can all come to a end at the first corner!
Wheels are gunned on, blankets ready to be removed, car fires up, the No.1 signals to remove the blankets, car drops onto its wheels and everyone runs to the white line that separates the track with the grass. The cars rev, an amazing sound to stand in the middle of! and they drive off. Everyone runs across the track back through the gate, this time its always even more intense. People are pushing and making their way through till they are on the other side. From there its a run down to the garage, quickly getting ready with helmets and gloves in case the car has to pit on the first lap. You sit down on your chair and on the screen you see the red lights go out. Anxious moments hoping you make it through the first corner and the waiting to see what result you get from all your hard work!!