When people say working in F1 must be the best job in the world I usually demur and say it isn’t all beer and skittles – but last night there may have been skittles. There was certainly beer.
I write today’s blog grateful that there wasn’t any action on track louder than the huge crowd gathering down below for the pitlane walk. This thanks to Sir Lancelot – a peculiar Budapest restaurant and F1 culinary institution.
Walking into the restaurant/medieval dungeon it seemed that half the paddock was sitting on trestle tables, quaffing large pots of beer, cheering on jugglers, gnawing on large slabs on roasted animal and decidedly not discussing the relative merits of left foot braking versus heel-and-toe. If you’ve seen The Cable Guy, you’ll know the sort of thing…
This morning all that quaffing didn’t seem like the best way to start the weekend, and I wondered how everyone else was coping. Then I remembered most of them probably weren’t coping at all – because they don’t have to.
'For anyone arriving at the track on Thursday, it's as if the House Elves have been at work'
I think of F1 as a Thursday – Sunday thing: four days at the track with perhaps a travel day tacked on either side. There are people for whom it’s strictly a weekend affair but there are others who exist in an F1 twilight world that rarely comes to public attention.
For the army of truckies, riggers and garage techs, the busy part of the week takes place before there’s a driver in sight. Motor racing circuits can be ropey old places but F1 has very high standards – and so before anything else can happen the garages will be swept, washed and painted, the teams’ own lighting rigs and services installed. The paddock will be cleaned up, the motorhomes built and plumbed and everything made tidy. For anyone arriving on Thursday, it appears as though the House Elves have been at work.
Many of the guys (mostly guys) carousing on Wednesday night had just finished for the week. A back to back in Europe puts severe pressure on everyone involved in that side of F1. Setup times vary from race to race but in the normal cycle it wouldn’t be uncommon for trucks to set out from the factory on Saturday morning. With a back-to-back they’re losing two days at least.
In this case Dobby, Winky (not their real names) and co. started work Sunday afternoon, taking down a motorhome around the people working inside it after the German Grand Prix. Finishing in the early hours of Monday morning, the trucks set off for Budapest with agency drivers at the helm. Unlike mechanics – who take human-rights-violating serfdom as part of the natural order – there are strict rules stopping someone driving a 1000km in a 44-tonne truck after working a 15-hour shift.
And while truckies generally hate letting agency drivers take their rigs (and usually have stories to tell about indignities visited on their trucks ranging from Mars-bar wrappers left in the footwells to lacy underwear in the glove compartment) they really enjoy the novel experience of flying to a race.
They arrived in Budapest on Monday afternoon and started building on Tuesday morning. On Sunday evening they get to tear it all back down, pack it up and take it to Spa before the summer break. They’ll need the rest because Spa-Monza is another tough trip – though I don’t recall anywhere in Monza decorated with suits of armour and morning stars.
- Get the official Vettel and Webber team kit from the Bull Shop
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