2018 Australian Grand Prix - Preview.
An excited Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport looks ahead to the start of the new Formula One season.
We’re excited to go racing again. Everything we’ve done over the past months were just the first steps on the road to start our 2018 campaign – from the first build of the car to the first fire-up, from the launch in Silverstone to testing in Barcelona. Now, it’s time to find out what we’ve got: like the old saying goes, when the flag drops, the bullsh*t stops.
Last year, the competition was very close and there was no moment where we could afford to relax. Ferrari put up a very tough fight and we had a proper battle between silver and red. This year promises to bring an exciting three-way fight between us, Ferrari and Red Bull. Everyone in Brackley and Brixworth has worked extremely hard over the past months to make sure we enter that fight with the best machine possible.
Both our drivers seem reasonably happy with our new car, but it remains yet to be seen how well it performs when driven in anger. The reduction in the number of power unit components means that reliability will again play an important role in 2018. Our reliability in testing looked good but we need to be careful to draw any conclusions from that – despite getting some good mileage with the new car in Barcelona, many of its components have not even come close to the life they need to complete during the season.
We will tackle this new season with the same dedication, team spirit and energy that has made us strong in the past. Each of us has the mindset that last year’s Championships belong in the past; yesterday’s trophies don’t win today’s games. A new season feels like climbing Mount Everest - we've done it successfully in the past, but we're only in the base camp at the moment. It will be a tough journey, with the same target, but different challenges to master along the way. Right now, we start this long season on zero points like every one of our rivals. And we have to give it everything to be successful again this year.
Featured this Week: The Longest Journey
Moving a team from one country to another is never easy, but this is especially tricky when it’s a 10,500-mile journey across the globe. The daunting 24-hour trip is the longest on the 2018 Formula One calendar, but it definitely makes for a unique start to the new season.
Heading to the vibrant, bustling city of Melbourne has become a familiar season-opening trip for the F1 paddock. It’s one of the most popular locations on F1’s schedule, which makes the journey a little bit easier, and there’s always a giddy sense of excitement and anticipation.
But, while it’s a great place to start the new campaign, transporting an F1 team to Melbourne is a mammoth task. In total, over 100 people from our Brackley and Brixworth factories will be attending the first round in Australia. This means a similar number of flights (which feature stopovers in either Abu Dhabi or Singapore) and a fleet of 25 Mercedes-Benz cars need to be organised.
Of course, the F1 travelling circus doesn’t just include people. An array of equipment is needed to run an F1 team across a race weekend and there’s also the small task of getting the new cars from one side of the world to the other, as well…
So, there’s over 40 tonnes of air freight and 23 tonnes of sea freight to transport to Melbourne, from more basic items such as chairs, tables, garage walls and hospitality decorations to complicated equipment such as starter motors, the pit wall and the most intricate thing of all – the latest Mercedes F1 creation, the F1 W09 EQ Power+.
The cars and their components are part of the air freight, which departed for Melbourne last week and touched down on Sunday. Heavier items – such as tyre and grid trollies – are part of the sea freight, which obviously has a completely different schedule…
There are a number of different sets of sea freight, so they can be shipped to locations all over the world at the same time. Each race requires three 40-foot containers-worth of sea freight, which was waved off for Australia mid-way through January and only arrived last Friday.
“There’s a set-up team out there in Melbourne, who started offloading all the sea freight, heavy duty equipment and the garage panelling when it arrived on Friday,” explains Mark Shepherd, Freight Team Leader.
“They built the shell of the garage over the weekend and then when all the air freight reached its destination, the race team and garage technicians arrived to offload it and populate the rest of the garage with all the cars, car parts and other equipment.”
For the departments handling the transportation of team members and freight, Australia is just like any other race, apart from the fact it takes longer for everything and everyone to get there. As Mark says, all races “have their own idiosyncrasies” but “it’s a similar process, wherever in the world” you are travelling to.
Long-distance travel takes its toll on the human body, though. Therefore, detailed preparation is vital. Those making the day-long voyage over to Melbourne have got to be in tip-top shape, because not adapting to the staggering 11-hour timezone shift can impact the performance of a highly-skilled racing team.
There are a number of tactics and techniques that can be deployed to make that happen. For every hour of time difference, there’s a 24-hour delay in adapting to that new location. So, for the trip from Brackley to Melbourne, it would take eleven days to properly settle into that timezone if nothing is done.
Team members have a sleeping plan to help shift their body clock across to the new timezone. Some will start to move gradually across to this in the days leading up to the flight and team members back in Brackley, who are working on Melbourne time to support from HQ, also have their own planned adjustment.
The flights to Australia are picked to fit as best they can into the sleeping plans. Obviously, the perfect scenario isn’t possible all the time. But the hope is that they can start to adapt to Melbourne time on the flight – sleeping when it’s night time in Oz and eating meals at the same time as their destination.
Sticking to light food on the flight and keeping well hydrated is recommended. When they’ve landed, light and dark exposure is also something that must be considered, as are meals, meal timings and amount of exercise (the team has a physio and coach heading out to Melbourne).
Of course, the drivers follow these plans too and take them to new levels in order to be as prepared as possible for the seven hours of intense track time ahead of them. They’ll only complete light exercise, as it helps speed up the acclimatisation process and all the necessary training was already completed before setting foot on the plane.
While some team members may prefer the longest journey of the season to come later in the year, starting the season with the Australian Grand Prix means everyone feels that bit fresher and more energised compared to the gradual fatigue that sets in.
Even though the car launch and testing period on the run-up to Melbourne is an intense time, people are in a more positive and eager frame of mind, wanting to get back on the road and racing again. They don’t have much longer to wait.