On race day we usually get up around 6.30, or 6.00 if my shirt isn't ironed! We're generally quite close so we can be here in 15 to 20 minutes from our hotel, and the food here in Barcelona is okay: in Istanbul we've brought tins of tuna and baps, depending on which hotel we're in! (laughs) A few of us in the past have had serious food poisoning problems, not at the circuit but from the hotels, so it's best to err on the side of caution...
We all come in together, the whole team, and when we get to the circuit we'll have a quick meeting between the four engineers and the team manager upstairs. The drivers arrive around 9.30 to 10.00, and then we'll have a driver debrief on strategy, tyres, fuel, pitstops, all that kind of stuff, and the set up changes on the car. The mechanics receive their set up sheets around 9.00 and they crack on with that, and then we get on with pitstop practice and all get a bit sweaty!
One of the biggest issues here is tyres: we tested here, and you look at that data, when tyre wear wasn't so marginal, to work out the strategies for in and out laps: it's quite easy this year because out laps are always quicker, as tyre wear is marginal. But you have to consider fuel load and the effect on your lap time against predicted tyre wear, which obviously gives you time loss.
You do some stuff in free practice which is race related and some which is qualifying related, and then you can do your own wear prediction. From previous data you know when the rubber goes down, and how much it moves from session to session, so you can build that all in. Unfortunately optimal stops are rarely used because you have to jump when other people jump, and you have to watch the times from your pitstop, so people don't jump you.
It's just a matter of using your own past knowledge (Andrew previously worked for Racing Engineering) – data not so much, because cars and tyres are different – it comes from testing, what we're going to do and how we're going to do it. Tyre temperature is the major killer, so we do a lot of stuff in testing: unfortunately we don't get to test at these temperatures, which is a bit of a problem, but it's a matter of understanding the physics of the car and the tyres, and trying to get it to the optimal margin.
Most rubber performs in a similar way, with some variations, so it's the same characteristic relationship between track temperature and how the tyres react, and adapting what you've done in the past to these tyres. This is a new team but everybody has a great deal of experience: not all of it in GP2, but good work should transfer across from whatever series you've been in, and I think it's been quite good so far.
We also have meetings with the truckies, who are in charge of the tyre allocations, and they'll give us different pressures based on different temperatures: we'll monitor the track and readjust the pressures dependant on the information we're given. We also meet with the chief mechanic to discuss lifing and issues we'll have to face going into the next two races, so we can structure parts ordering and parts delivery, so although there's time before the race you very rarely find yourself doing nothing!
Just before the race we tend to leave the driver alone: pretty much everything he needs to know has already been discussed in the hours prior to that, so we monitor temperatures in the car to make sure that everything is fine, and that everything is being built up in the pitlane in the way that we want it.
The only real time you'll talk to the driver is to let him know when it's 7 minutes to go so he's in the car in time, and to go through a check list with him in the car to see that he's happy with everything. He will go out, once through the pits and then on to the grid, so we use those as maps for balance changes we might have made, and the driver will build up a feeling in his head from previous races: if we need a small tweak we can do it.
As you know, in the past I worked with Dani (Clos), and we did a lot of work with him and his routine before he gets into the car, to be calm and very much in the zone. Max is doing something quite similar: the less outside annoyances, the more focused he can be on exactly what he has to do and how he's going to do it. He is very young, and in the past it has been hard to keep them focused and calm, so we're trying to push that direction because I think it's easier for the drivers to make correct decisions when they're calm and focused, rather than when they're all charged up and ready to pop.
When the race starts we see what happens: if someone has qualified quite low then they'll come in early so they come out in free air and can jump up after the others stop, and we will monitor those guys to see how much they gain, which tells us the out lap has a gain of, say 2 seconds on your in lap. We also have to know if the guy in front of us comes in whether we have to come in on the next lap, come in with him, or whatever.
So based on what the people who've come in already have done we can form a bit of a delta with that, but we're always monitoring the 3 guys in front, the 4 or 5 guys behind for the gap, and you have to look where they're coming out, whether it's free air, where we are to count back the lap time loss so we don't come out to a slow guy who hasn't pitted and also make sure we avoid the dead zone: you know from testing where the substantial drop off is because there is always degradation, and you can't afford to go into that.
We know roughly where that is because we'll have done some work in free practice which will give us our delta from race runs on the colder track, and then we can work out within say 2 laps of where that should come. But also it depends on if he's driving behind a car or not: the lack of downforce and the car moving around will increase your tyre wear, and the driver will have to relay the information back to us, because he's the guy who can feel it quicker than we can judge it.
After the race we briefly talk to the drivers, just to check that most of the mechanical things are okay and there weren't any issues with the car, and then we leave him alone to relax, have a drink, see his physio and so on: relax and let any emotion out before he comes to see us, so we can get useful information out of him! (laughs) We go through the data and the timing with him, analyse it all, and see where we are.
As we have to wait for the car to come back from parc ferme, the mechanics go for dinner and we'll have an engineering meeting to discuss the technical stuff without the drivers, things we've tested if there is anything we were testing, how the tyre wear was, the pace, and any other things we want to discuss for tomorrow.
Then we have a thing which we call the I Can't Believe It's Not A Problem List: you don't want to call it a problems list, because everyone gets annoyed with that laughs We go through that, and any issues are written down and allocated to the list based on priority, who raised it, and who's got to fix it. This could be anything from a radio not working to a faulty value in a wheel to a procedural issue: anything that merits looking into and getting fixed.
When we get the cars back we'll issue a jobs list for the mechanics and a management sheet, and we'll have a list of things to look at and discuss so that we can prepare the car for tomorrow. We have a debrief with the drivers while the car is set up, and we stay until everybody's finished: everybody chips in, even just to pack something away, do the awning or clean up, and make sure everything is ready for tomorrow, so there's no problems in the morning.
Everybody leaves together: it's good for morale and I think it's only fair, really. Everybody chips in so that everything is done a bit quicker: I might even get my hands dirty, occasionally! (laughs) Everybody does it here, so it's not a problem.
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