E s was the first triple of Formula 1 history. And also the last. The FIA and Liberty have decided. Three races on three consecutive weekends, that will never happen again. It drains the people who travel with the circus. Especially those whose GP week starts on the Tuesday before the race and only ends on the Monday after. In addition, three races in a row bring a certain saturation of the audience with it. Participants and spectators alike are happy that there is now a week's break.
It was lucky for Formula 1 that the Grand Prix of France, Austria and England produced three different winners and thus enough variety: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton started at Le Castellet, Max Verstappen took home victory in the Red Bull at the Red Bull Ring, and Sebastian Vettel rounded off the triple with a Ferrari triumph at Silverstone. All three races reported full houses on Sunday. 65,000 spectators at the comeback of the French GP, 78,000 fans in Austria and 130,000 in the cradle of British racing.
auto motor und sport participated in the marathon from start to finish. And we accompanied five people from the circus on the long journey across Europe. Read how Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, Mercedes engineer Andrew Shovlin, the clean mechanics and the construction team of the Mercedes motorhome experienced the three most intense Formula 1 weeks of the year.
Sebastian Vettel saves himself hotel
Sebastian Vettel speaks for his driver colleagues: “For us driversthree races in a row are the least stressful. We just have to adjust our training. It hits the mechanics worst. ”Vettel spends the Wednesday before the French GP in the simulator in Maranello and then flies to Le Castellet in a rented jet. Practical: it can land directly on the small airfield next to the racetrack. In theory, he should have just walked across the street and checked into the Hotel du Castellet. But the hotel had raised the room rates for the GP week to 2,500 euros per night. That was too much for a Formula 1 world champion. On principle.
Vettel lives in the motorhome that a friend drove to Le Castellet. But even there the organizer wants to dig deep into the pockets of the drivers. Anyone who wanted to set up their quarters on the site of the route would have had to pay 15,000 euros. Vettel emigrates, lives 8 kilometers from the route and commutes back and forth on his motorcycle between his mobile home and his work place.
The jet takes the jet back to Zurich on Sunday evening. On Monday, Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen make a detour to Maranello for a PR appointment. On Tuesday back to Zurich, one day later flight to Spielberg. This time the Ferrari star is staying at the hotel, around 15 minutes from the track. The means of transport to the route is again a Suzuki T500.
This time, too, Vettel is planning the early escape from the Grand Prix on Sunday evening. The jet takes off only 2 kilometers from the route from the old military airport Zeltweg, where the first Austrian GP took place in 1964. After two days of breathing at home in Switzerland, the journey goes to Oxford on Wednesday. And from there to the large camping camp inside the racetrack. For most GP drivers it has become a tradition at the British Grand Prix to sleep in their own motorhome. The way to the paddock is only one kilometer. Nobody has to go through a traffic jam.
Vettel has to celebrate his victory at the GP England on the island. There is still a PR appointment in England on Monday. The Ferrari driver is a guest for a contribution to “Grand Tour”, one of the most popular TV programs about cars, which can be accessed via Amazon's streaming service. For Vettel, the triple ended on Monday evening with the return trip to Zurich.
Christian Horner celebrates two home races
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner is also one of the privileged in the GP circus. If necessary, travel in the rented Learjet. This time it was necessary. The triple requires special travel planning. For Horner, the trilogy doesn't start until the Thursday before the first race. Flight to Nice, transfer to Le Castellet. Then four days of business as usual along the way. A hectic departure after the race so as not to miss the slot for the flight to Oxford. For once, Horner cancels his media round.
After two days in the office, the private jet is waiting again. Red Bull is the owner of the Red Bull-Ring. The landing permit at the nearby military airport is only a matter of form. In Austria the team is under special observation. It is one of the few Grand Prix that Oberboss Dietrich Mateschitz also shows up on the track. So many mandatory dates, few freestyle. After a disappointing training session, Red Bull is rewarded with its first victory within its own four walls. The celebration must be short. It's back to England on Sunday evening.
In Red Bull terminology, Austria is the “Home Grand Prix” and Silverstone is the “Local Grand Prix”. Silverstone is on the doorstep. It's just half an hour's drive from the Milton Keynes factory. Before the GP circus unwinds its standard program in Silverstone, Christian Horner has the inauguration of the new MK7 company museum inside the factory, in which all Formula 1 cars from the RB1 to the RB14 are on display, plus a hectic Wednesday. In the morning a charity event for the Red Bull Foundation 'Wings for Life', at noon the four-hour meeting of the strategy group, in the evening the Grand Prix Ball. A flying visit to the track on Thursday, then back to the factory. War council with motorsport director Helmut Marko.
The 'local' Grand Prix requires a lot of planning. Red Bull invites all team members and their families and provides them with grandstand seats and, in some cases, with paddock tickets. The race weekend is rather disappointing for Red Bull. Silverstone is no longer a race track for Adrian Newey's cars. But the journey home is short. Horner can watch the evening news on TV at home.
Mercedes engineers are stuck in traffic jams
Work on the route does not start until Thursday. Everything still unsuspicious. The drive to the racetrack usually takes about half an hour. On Friday the first nasty surprise awaits the Mercedes crew. The traffic is right behind Le Beausset. From there it is around 8 kilometers to the route. Shovlin and his colleagues arrive at the paddock 2 hours late.
In the second practice session, Valtteri Bottas' car leaks. The return trip to the hotel planned for 7 p.m. has to be postponed. From Saturday, the convoy of engineers will change the route. The organizer has closed a street only for the Formula 1 people. That means 30 kilometers of detour, but it is faster because there is no traffic jam. This means that working hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. can be adhered to.
The engineers have to hurry on Sunday evening. After a short de-briefing, it goes to Toulon at 7 p.m. with a Hamilton victory in the luggage and a short traffic jam. A charter to Birmingham is waiting there. The Mercedes troop lands in England at midnight. At 1 a.m. the team bus arrives at the factory, where the team then disperses. Monday morning at 10 a.m. work starts in Brackley. Office work is announced until Tuesday.
On Wednesday, a charter plane will bring the engineers from Luton to Graz. Then hotel. The normal GP madness follows from Thursday to Sunday. On Sunday evening, the Mercedes people are booked on one of the many charter flights from the Zeltweg military airport to Birmingham.
Many questions are buzzing around in their heads. Why did both cars retire with defects? What follows is root cause research in the factory. The answers will be there by Wednesday. At Valtteri Bottas one of the three screws that lock the hydraulic line in the steering column had vibrated loose. Lewis Hamilton had the same dramaat. A defect in the fuel pump preceded a second hydraulic defect. A penny had come loose inside the pump.
Silverstone was home game for Mercedes like for six other teams stationed in England. This time too, the race left many questions unanswered. When the engineers drove home in their cars on Sunday evening, they were primarily concerned with the question of how to respond to Ferrari's technology offensive. To compensate for 20 days of work in a row there is one day off in the week after the GP England.
Extra work for clean screwdrivers
Rotation is a foreign word for the small teams in Formula 1. All Sauber mechanics under the direction of Reto Camendzind are there from start to finish. A transfer would only have been available in an emergency. The GP week for mechanics starts on the Tuesday before the race. Unlike in the past, the cars and the pit equipment are already on site when the mechanics arrive.
The transport and construction is done by specially hired special troops. The mechanic who also drives the truck no longer exists. Due to the work limit of 60 hours a week on Sunday evening, he is no longer allowed to move a truck. A total of 12 trucks commute from race to race for Sauber. Five for the team, seven for the motorhome. The routes are impressive: 800 kilometers from Hinwil to Le Castellet, 1,180 kilometers to Spielberg, 1,520 kilometers to Silverstone and 1,100 kilometers back to the base in Switzerland.
Gone are the days when the Nights is screwed through. The regulations regulate the working hours via curfew. Each team can only request two exemptions per year. There is a lot to do on Friday. After an accident involving Marcus Ericsson, hot oil ignites from a ruptured oil cooler. The entire harness is scorched. So chassis change. The damaged monocoque is returned to Switzerland by van. A new wiring harness is pulled in at the factory. TheChassis is available again for later races.
The Sauber screwdrivers cannot cheer for long about Charles Leclerc's championship point and the third fastest pit stop of the race in a row. You have to pack up, get all the material ready for travel. It is taking longer than planned because of a downpour over Paul Ricard after the race. The truck convoy can leave for Spielberg 30 minutes after midnight. The mechanics go to bed for a moment.
On Monday, the 20-person crew will fly from Marseille to Graz. The afternoon is free. Two employees from Hinwil bring a sea freight box, spare parts and new developments to Spielberg in a delivery van. Tuesday morning everyone starts working on the track. The cars are unloaded at 11 a.m. and set up immediately. The rest of the process is a transfer from Paul Ricard. Race cars need care around the clock. The dismantling on Sunday is going according to plan this time. With 3 World Championship points in the account and two cars in the top ten, work is more lively, even if the triple is already hanging in the bones after almost two weeks on the road.
On Monday morning, the fitters will fly from Graz Birmingham. It is a charter in which several Formula 1 teams participate. Scheduled flights with changes would waste too much time. Monday afternoon is free like the week before. Work is waiting again on Tuesday. The colleagues from the English teams have it better. For them, the last leg is a home game. The guys from Sauber only see hotel rooms for 20 days.
After a clear round at Silverstone, they head back to Zurich on Monday after the British GP. For the mechanics, the triple is not over yet. The cars arrive at the factory in Hinwil on Tuesday afternoon. Also the chassis that Marcus Ericsson damaged in his racing accident. The impact with 24G delay is severe. “The chassis can be repaired,” says team manager Beat Zehnder. The cars will be dismantled and rebuilt by Friday. Only then are there four days off until Tuesday before Hockenheim as a reward. Incidentally, Renault does it the other way around. First free, then prepare the cars for the GP Germany.
60 people and 18 trucks for a motorhome
Team and motorhome belong together optically. In the workflow, however, they are two separate things. For Mercedes, DB Schenker takes care of the transport and construction of the mobile wagon castle, which becomes a second home for teams, guests and the media on a GP weekend. Boss Tobias Genrich has to direct a train of 60 people and 18 semi-trailers across Europe. The 30 containers in which the motorhome is stowed arrive at Paul Ricard's paddock 9 days before the French GP. It will be the only normal construction in the next 3 weeks.
Three days later, the silver-colored construction is ready. The fourth day is fine tuning. The 14 employees who are responsible for the construction are flown in. When the work is done, they fly home and return on Sunday. Work starts on Sunday at 7.30 p.m., when all guests have disappeared and all press conferences have been held. Dismantling takes place in two 12-hour shifts. On Monday at 4 p.m., the last of the caravan consisting of 18 trucks sets off in Le Castellet with destination Spielberg. At 10 a.m. on Tuesday everyone will meet again in the paddock of the Red Bull Ring. The tractor units are manned twice so that they can drive around the clock.
Because the setup crew arrives late in Graz, the assembly of the puzzle does not start until 4 p.m. Now it's getting really tight. Everything should be ready on Thursday morning. Sometimes small miracles happen. The Silver Temple with its 3 floors is fully functional at the agreed time. Genrich noted a new record: “We did something in 28 hours, what we normally do in 3 days with more time.” He divides the people into 3 shifts Fly home. The truckies stay on site. The construction crew will be back on time on Sunday. Then Paul Ricard's game repeats itself. The only difference: The trucks will now be manned three times because the route to Silverstone is even longer. A fresh driver gets on at Frankfurt. Again, everything is knitted on the hot needle. On Wednesday at Silverstone, a crane lifts the upper floors to the ground floor. The only thing missing is the star on the facade. Of course, the house in England will also be finished on time.
After the GP England, normal everyday life is returning to DB Schenker. The motorhome will be dismantled in two days and shipped directly to Hockenheim. Now a flat tire should happen without having to worry about delays in setting up. All employees get 2 days off. And nobody has to set new records at Hockenheim. You have normal time from Sunday to Wednesday again.
In the gallery we show you some impressions of the abovenamed participants from the triple header in France, Austria and England.