The Malaysian GP weekend started today, and we were in Sepang to warm up for the big race this Sunday. Our man Chris Ng will be in SIC all weekend with the Lotus team (you’ll hear from him shortly), but I couldn’t resist making the trip down to catch the buzz as well. My host was champions Red Bull Racing, the energy drink maker the whole paddock is trying to beat.
Friday is always a quiet day at the Malaysian GP, and the best time to snoop around in the garage, with permission of course! Without a guide, it all looked like a bunch of men dismantling two cars (after P2), but thankfully I had the lovely Georgie from RBR to shoot questions at.
Georgie explained that there’s a team of up to 15 blokes working on each car, and they’re divided into few teams that take care of certain sections – floor, wings, gearbox etc. They were busy stripping the cars to improve and tweak for qualifying tomorrow, and will continue to work till 4am tomorrow morning. They will have to stop work at that ungodly hour, according to FIA rules, before getting back in the garage to resume at 10am.
I was sweating buckets in the enclosed section that you normally see the wives, girlfriends and celebrity guests hang out (standing room for 12 people, each with their own headset), and I was just in there for a mere 15 minutes! It’s a tough life for the crew, more so at hot and humid races like Malaysia.
I noticed that the body panels that were being taken off were gold in colour on the inside, and Georgie confirmed that it is indeed gold I was looking at – the precious metal is to reflect heat away from the engine. And did you know that the front wings are tested with ultrasound to ensure that there are no imperfections? F1 is science at work – it’s such a pity that photography is not allowed, so you just have to take my word for it.
She left the best for last. As the race happens in Malaysia, Red Bull Racing has a team of strategists locked up in a dark room in England (they “live in our time zone” despite being in UK) corresponding with the chief strategist on the pit wall. They study the data and telemetry, and recommend actions for the drivers. And all along I’ve been thinking that all they need is a fast car and fast driver to win!
We came out just in time to catch the bermuda-wearing Seb Vettel giving interviews. The easy-going double world champ would like to slide less tomorrow. “I would love to be a bit higher up this afternoon, but all in all we had decent running today – although there is still a lot to do,” he said, after finishing second in P1 and tenth in P2.
“The tyres drop off quite quickly here, which is the same for all the drivers, but I think we are sliding quite a bit and I would like the car to be a bit more stable. We made a good step today, the potential is there, but we need to get to it. We will see what we can do tomorrow,” he added.
Teammate Mark Webber, in Superdry shorts and flip-flops, is fine with the heat. “The rain held off, which is always fortunate and we have plenty of work to go through regarding our car set up and the tyres. In terms of the heat here, it’s fine, obviously it’s warm in the car but we come prepared for that,” he remarked coolly.
We’ll be in Sepang for the next two days, so you can look forward to more updates from the Malaysian GP. Have a good weekend!