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Inside Action at the Valencia Grand Prix

Green Lotus Car During Valencia Formula One Grand Prix

Lotus During the Grand Prix

Inside the Pit Lane at the Valelncia Grand Prix - Two men & Car

Getting ready to rumble…

“It’s about to get extremely loud in here, guys,” says the Lotus spokesman. “Really loud.”

It’s too late, though. Before  the end of the sentence, the noise arrives. A shrieking, piercing buzz that reverberates through me as I press my thumbs harder and harder against my ears, thoughts driven from my mind, inhaling the sound. I’m in the Lotus Formula One team garage - and with ninety minutes to go before the big race, I’m coming face to eardrum with two key components of the Grand Prix: noise and speed.

I’m coming face to eardrum with two key components of the Grand Prix: noise and speed.

Money, of course, is the third one (VIP passes cost around £35 000) but today marks my first real understanding of just how much technology and teamwork is involved. We’ve walked through a labyrinth of computer screens, cables, silver-foil pipes and a network of exposed sensors, all living within this three-storey structure that will be disassembled by the end of the day. It may go by the name of “garage” but “Starship Enterprise meets office block” seems more appropriate.

Inside the Lotus Team Garage at the Valencia Formula One Grand Prix - Engineers concentrate

Inside the Lotus Team Garage

Upstairs, Lotus’s Tom Webb tells us, engineers are planning the strategy for the Valencia Grand Prix. A row of men with hunched shoulders stare at softly lit blue computer screens. “They’re looking at hydraulic pressure, temperatures… a whole range of different sensors on the cars so that they can maintain performance throughout the race.”

Today is the 500th race for Lotus, a team that returned after a prolonged absence only this year. Mechanics in crisp shirts and racing green shorts measure and check, carry clipboards and chat, interconnected through earpieces and microphones. Our presence here is as natural as Bob the Builder turning up in the White House and I almost choke with surprise when we’re left alone for five minutes while everyone else gets on with work.

Our presence here is as natural as Bob the Builder turning up in the White House.

Just beyond the garage, in the full heat of the burning Valencia sun, the pit lane never slows for a moment. Convoys of tyres, nose cones and front wings and, yes, the cars themselves process past, accompanied by journalists with lenses the size of marrows and gadget guys in all-in-one suits. Everything looks clean and perfect, there’s no sign of litter or smoke, no faded stickers or equipment, no scribbled notes on scraps of paper. The Valencia Grand Prix has stepped straight out of the salon.

Back in the Lotus garage, the atmosphere is focused. Formula One rules forbid teams from inspecting the cars overnight, imposing a curfew between the qualifying rounds and the main race. The clock is ticking and the deadline only minutes away.

Inside the Pit Lane at the Valelncia Grand Prix - Men Sitting on Tyres

The Pit Lane – Valencia Grand Prix

Certain aspects remind me of my time in paediatric intensive care. The special lights, the gauges, the tyre incubators with probes in three places (inside, middle and outer) and the ratio of trained personnel to a single entity – in this case a car rather than a child.

In fact, that’s been one of the biggest surprises of this visit. The legend of Formula One focuses on the drivers, but the reality focuses on the car. It’s a team endeavour, with staff working from 6am until 10 at night, measuring, recording, adapting, planning.

Continues with The Real Face of Formula One here…

Interview with a Formula One Race Engineer here…

A special thank you extends to Land of Valencia for inviting me on their groundbreaking BlogTripF1, Keith Jenkins from Velvet Escape and the Lotus Formula One team for inviting me to visit the Valencia Grand Prix Formula One Paddock. See my photos of the Valencia Grand Prix on Flickr here. Expect plenty more photos, text, videos and audio very soon…

Lewis Hamilton - Formula One Valencia Grand Prix - Inside Car with helmet

Lewis Hamilton – Valencia Grand Prix

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18 Responses to Inside Action at the Valencia Grand Prix

  1. Melvin June 29, 2010 at 9:29 am #

    Good morning Abi,
    these are awesome pics!
    & the article is great! Just like all the others!

    That was a trip & I still can’t believe that I was standing there… right in the middle of the Lotus box.

    Thanks Lotus F1 Team! Thanks Land of Valencia! Thanks Keith – Velvet Escape!

  2. DIEGO June 29, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    Hi Abi , from MADRID… great experience into the LOTUS box…

    Thanks Lotus F1 Team! Thanks Land of Valencia! Thanks Keith – Velvet Escape!

    DIEGO ;-)))

  3. Tom Webb June 29, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    Great article! We’re all so pleased you guys enjoyed it, and it was a real pleasure showing you all around. Love the words above – might just nick a few for our presentations! Much respect – everyone at Lotus Racing!

  4. Jimmy Pons June 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    Great Post Abi! It was great to have you all here It seems you visit to LOTUS box was amazing! Big Kiss to you!

  5. Patricia June 29, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Wow Abi – what an amazing experience and what a great blog. Looking forward to the next one. Keep up the good work.

  6. Melvin June 29, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    @Tom: Does that mean we’ll get invited again? LOL
    Thanks again! It was really something special & my fingers stay crossed for the Lotus team from now on!

    Go on Lotus!

  7. Andy Jarosz June 29, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    Great post Abi, you described the inside of the garage very vividly. I almost feel I was there. Which I wasn’t. But I’m not bitter. Honest. :-)

  8. Steve June 30, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    Fantastic shot of Hamilton on the grid – you can almost sense the concentration and the tension…. Very atmospheric description of the garage too.

  9. Abi July 2, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    Thanks for all the compliments!
    Which parts are you going to use in your presentation, Tom? The part about us looking like Bob the Builder…

  10. Juan Otero July 4, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Abi,It was a fantastic experience. I hope to see you soon in Asturias.
    Best regards
    Juan Otero

    • Abi July 7, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

      Yes – it really was. Hope to see you again soon as well. Best, Abi

  11. ciki July 6, 2010 at 1:33 pm #

    LOL.. face 2eardrum, wow can just imagine the noise and the exhilaration:) great 1st shot abi!

    • Abi July 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

      Cheers Ciki! I think my ears are still buzzing, days after the event…

  12. Luke July 29, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    Wish I could’ve seen this event! I bet it was extremely loud! Nice pics btw

    • Abi July 30, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

      Thanks – louder than I could ever have imagined!

  13. matt August 11, 2010 at 3:35 am #

    Nice article. I learned lots about behind the scenes. Enjoy your blog.

  14. Abi October 7, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    Thanks Matt

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