A Week in the Life of a Formula One Engineer

Gobustan Rock Art Landscape - cropped

Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape

In Andy’s opinion, the Formula One (F1) race in Baku was the most exciting one this year.

I had the opportunity to join him in Azerbaijan, and whilst he was working I enjoyed exploring local ancient sites such as the Gobustan Rock Art cultural landscape and mud volcanoes, and the 12th century old city – both  UNESCO world heritage sites.  I did however watch the race from the FiA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) hospitality suite in the F1 paddock on the Sunday.

Mud Vocanoes resized

Mud Volcanoes

Depending on the time zone of the country Andy is working in, he leaves Starston on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday to catch a flight to the country he is working in, except of course when the F1 race is held at Silverstone. There are currently 20 races around the world, so combined with pre-season tests, visiting F1 teams and staff meetings in Geneva, Paris or London, Andy is abroad for more than half of the year.

Getting to Baku included a taxi ride to Heathrow; a 1.5 hour flight to Frankfurt; a 1.5 hour stop over and then another 4.5 hours flight to this ex-Soviet state. Some may think that F1 is a glamourous  lifestyle, but we arrived tired and hungry!  Andy joined work colleagues for supper (he is part of a team of twenty people which includes engineers, technicians and medics), and I collapsed into bed.

Baki F1 Paddock Entrance

Entrance to F1 Paddock, Baku

No account is taken in F1 work schedules of time zone changes or the weather. Having spent all day Tuesday travelling, Andy headed to work on Wednesday at 8:30am local time (3:30am UK time) in around 30 degrees (track temperature was much higher than this).

Wednesday, set up day, involves unpacking equipment, setting up monitors, connecting the servers for data monitoring and verifying  that the systems that are on the F1 cars are approved versions .  In contrast, I had a leisurely day familiarising myself with my hotel surroundings including indoor pool.

F1 Typical Race Week Schedule

F1 Paddock Baku resized

F! Paddock, Baku

Sunday/Monday/Tuesday – travel

Tuesday/Wednesday – set up days. Some of Andy’s colleagues travel a day before to set up their equipment.

Thursday – pre-scrutineering day for the F1 cars. The FiA check that the cars are safe and legal to run on Friday.

Friday – practice sessions 1 and 2, each lasting 1.5hrs, enabling the F1 drivers to familiarise themselves with the track, with a few hours inbetween to allow the teams to analyse data and make adjustments to the cars.

Saturday – practice session 3, lasting 1 hour and the qualifying sessions, where the F1 drivers earn their starting grid position for the race.

Sunday – F1 race, often preceded by other supporting races like F2. The maximum time an F1 race can last is 2 hours although it is usually around 1hr 40 minutes, and this is typically the duration of television coverage that you can enjoy from your sitting room as an F1 fan.   By contrast, most staff involved in the race will be working 12 hours, as for most other days in an F1 week.

Monday – travel

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Baku Carpet Museum

I had a lovely holiday. The history of the region is fascinating, although sadly punctuated by wars throughout the centuries.  I think the description of Baku as the “Dubai of the Caucasus’” is a good one.  The discovery and extraction of oil since the turn of the century has transformed the country – the old jostles with the new everywhere, although “mentalities” or cultural attitudes I am told by locals have not changed.

And the following week in the 2017 F1 calendar ……. Austria.

Ann Leitch