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Mercedes & # 34; Race Support & # 34; in Brackley: As with NASA

Visit to the Mercedes 'Race Support' in Brackley
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K im talks to Phil over her headset : “The sub-floor is full of water. We can forget the data. ”The track is wet. The first training session for the 2018 Italian GP is still 20 minutes away. Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton's two Mercedes are in the garage. Phil is with them at the racetrack. Kim Stevens can see activity on both cars on two screens on the front wall. All she has to do is raise her head. In garage 1 she sees Bottas in his W09. Including in Garage 2 Hamilton in his Silver Arrow. Water has clogged the pores in the underbody of both cars, where sensors are embedded. They measure the air pressure and actually provide values ​​as to whether the aerodynamics are working as they should.

The 360-degree view

Interview partner Kim - dark brown hair, a few blond strands, Zopf - sits in Brackley, over 1,000 kilometers away, in the last of five rows of tables on the far left. She is wearing a white team shirt and black trousers. Kim has three monitors right in front of her - a central one in landscape format and two to the left and right of it in portrait format. It scans the telemetry, evaluates data. Again and again she presses one of the buttons on the flat desk between the keyboard and the screen with the abbreviations “Aero”, “Tires” or “Meeting”. At the push of a button, she communicates with the engineers at the race track. On the left half of the table are two notebooks, on the right there is a drinking area.

Engineers and students have set up for 22 of the 30 seats, all of which are equipped like that of aerodynamicist Kim. Some sit upright, some arch their upper body. As you know it from open-plan offices. In contrast, this 40 square meter room is quiet. Nobody is hectic. Nobody screams. 22 people watch, their eyes sinking into the screens. Viewed from the other side of the glass wall, unclear spectators would think they are watching the NASA control center during one of their next rocket launches.

Pete Bonnington (right) is Lewis Hamilton's race engineer.

Hamilton asks his race engineer: “Do we expect more rain?” Pete Bonnington replies, while the control center listens: “No. We'll wait to see if the track dries up by the end of training. Hülkenberg and Sainz are already looking for wet spots off the racing line to cool their intermediates. It makes no sense to drive. ”The almost 1,000 hp, silver rocket will only be re-ignited in the afternoon.

auto motor und sport is right in the middle of it and observes the work in the so-called“ Race Support ”. This is the department that works with the engineers on the racetrack and helps them broaden the view through the keyhole to a 360-degree perspective. “We are like an eye in the sky. We can't touch the car. The people on site have to get it onto the track. We have the luxury of taking a step back, looking at the big picture, analyzing the data more broadly and making our recommendations to the group at the racetrack, ”says Dominique Riefstahl, who heads“ Race Support ”.

Live chat room for communication

20 minutes earlier, for example, Kim Stevens spoke to Phil over her headset while the mechanics were preparing Hamilton and Bottas' cars for the next drive: “I would suggest that we mount the T-wing. ”The antenna in the rear increases the pressure of the car, but at the same time increases the air resistance. Actually poison on the fastest route of the season. But not when the asphalt is wet.

The' Race Support 'offers seats for 30 engineers and students.

The team of engineers for vehicle dynamics, strategists, tire engineers, aerodynamicists, engineers for control systems, IT staff and a horde of students is silent observer and advisor at the same time. The Luxembourger himself is one of two trained racing engineers in the room. The group takes part in all meetings that the racing team initiates and holds. You will be there from the preliminary meeting one hour before the start of the training to the “Review of Running”. In the last debriefing, the Mercedes team reviews the day. Each department calls in, reports on possible problems, new vehicle parts that have been tested: engine and tire engineers, aerodynamicists.

Brackley and Monza are connected to one another via an intercom. Before, after and during all sessions. The system is called Intercom and is provided by Riedel. The Indian Tata group takes care of the live data link to the headquarters. The system is even more reliable than the virtually bulletproof racing cars. 'The last blackout that I can remember was Japan 2012. In the event of a failure, we just have to pick up the phone,' says the department head. The engine plant in Brixworth also listens, analyzes and reports. “Half the people work there. The department is called the Track Support Office. The difference is that at Brackley, we focus solely on the Silver Arrows. In Brixworth we look after our team and our engine customers Force India and Williams. ”

Training of young engineers

Command post, garage, racing trucks in the paddock, factory: Mercedes is like the other teams set up own social network. The processes are well established, the commands rehearsed, the architecture transparent. Everyone knows what the other is doing at all times.

The members wear team clothing. Coffee mugs are allowed.

Liberty Media and the FIA ​​only give each Formula 1 team 60 passes for employees who drive directly on a race weekend have to create. So mechanics, engineers, strategists. You make the decisions. Brixworth and Brackley are her extended arm. It started over ten years ago with three employees whoFiltered as much valuable information as possible from the TV recordings. The Race Support has moved three times since then. The rooms became bigger and more comfortable. Now only a glass facade separates it from the design office.

Mercedes is also introducing the engineers of tomorrow here, training them and educating them. This is where they gather their experience before they might even join the racing team on the track years later. Here they look over the shoulder of the top engineers. Like him: Six minutes after the start of the second training session in Monza, Technical Director James Allison enters the room. His laptop is tucked under his left arm. Allison sits in the third row. Meanwhile, the others analyze the cause of Marcus Ericsson's multiple rollover in his Sauber C37 and quickly realize that it was due to a faulty DRS. “The flap stayed open when Ericsson hit the brakes,” says one. “Right”, a second engineer. 'It only closes when it turns left,' adds a third.

Video analysis in 'Race Support'

Mercedes is watching the competition closely. One of the employees in Race Support takes a close look at the opponents' cars. First he clicks through a presentation of the Renault R.S. 18. Then he looks at photos of the Red Bull RB14. Later the Ferrari SF71H is on it. Each picture is labeled.

Brackley, Brixworth and Monza are connected via an intercom. The system is called Intercom and is provided by Riedel. The Indian Tata group takes care of the live data link to the headquarters.

Sebastian Vettel goes far in the Parabolica. You can see it well on the large monitor, next to which recordings from three different cockpit cameras are running on other screens as well as the weather forecast from Meteo France and the lap times. Hamilton's world championship rival drives all four wheels over the white line in his fastest laps. “Can you send us more photos and pictures?” Asks an engineer from the race track.The drivers should bring up the topic in the driver briefing with race director Charlie Whiting. You want to clarify what is allowed and what is not.

Students are already looking for the material together. The authority over the video analysis rests with the 'Race Support'. After an accident like the one Bottas had at the start in Belgium, they sift through every video, every perspective in order to draw a precise picture of the damage: Do we have to change the front wing or not? Riefstahl explains: “Every volunteer can make a stop at the Race Support. These are students who do a 30-month internship. Any support is welcome. I admit that categorizing videos and listening to and transcribing radio messages is not the most exciting job in the world. However, they get an insight into a Formula 1 racing team that no other team has. You sit at the table from the first briefing. They know what we're up to, what our program looks like, hear what the drivers and engineers are saying. You also learn what the other teams are doing. ”

Support with strategy

On the radio, engine settings, brake balance, tire pressures, test starts and driving behavior are discussed. The students and young engineers listen in. Hamilton turns to James Vowles. “Where do I lose time on the Ferraris?” The chief strategist: “In the second Lesmo corner. At the exit of turn ten, you picked up behind Alonso. And at the apex of the Parabolica. Ferrari turned the power down. But Vettel benefited from the slipstream. “

' Race Support ', garage and command post are connected to each other. The team makes the decisions on site.

A part of the race support supports the chief tactician with the strategy. By constantly comparing the previously made assumptions and projections on tire wear, lapping traffic and pit stop times. “We check our forecasts and help to sketch the outlines. But the chief strategist always has the last word, ”explains Riefstahl. Many of the decisions are made in fractions of a second: Science Formula 1.


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