Six o’clock in the evening in the Jerez paddock and the sun is beginning to set on the first day of 2012 winter testing. It’s been the usual Spanish scenario of very cold mornings giving way to a pleasant sunny day, before the temperature drops like a stone again in the evening.
Six o’clock might be a normal time to finish work, but not in the wonderful world of Formula 1, when most teams are facing at least another six hours hard graft or maybe more. And here in Jerez there really is hardly time for the workers to catch their breath as, in a very un-Spanish way, the track remains open from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon without stopping for lunch.
In one of the Scuderia Toro Rosso trucks, the major end of day debrief has just taken place, attended by the engineers, representatives from Ferrari and Pirelli, the team principal, the team manager and the chief mechanics and of course, the drivers. Even if Vergne has to wait until Thursday for his turn at the wheel of the STR7, he attends all meetings to be completely up to speed before its time for him to get behind the wheel.
When the main meeting is over, the engineers then work individually or in groups looking at every area of their speciality, from engine to aero to gearbox to suspension. All the data from the day is gathered and analysed and decisions taken now dictate any changes to the on-track programme for tomorrow. In the garage, the mechanics are also hard at work, cleaning and examining the stripped down car, seeing what lessons can be learned from its first 57 laps of the year. In addition the work sheet is being produced that will decide what configuration the car will be in to start all over again tomorrow morning. The 20 Grands Prix might be the glamorous part of the season, but when it comes to hard work, nothing can match a week of testing, when the effort goes on round the clock, with no cheering crowd to lift the spirits.