JAMES BOND EAT YOUR HEART OUT
OK so someone got to experience her very first Formula One Grand Prix last weekend and what’s more… at the most iconic race of them all, Monaco! We were generously hosted by the prestigious IWC Schaffhausen and Mercedes, who pulled out all the stops to show us just how it’s done (and in style!). Imagine mega yachts, superstars, fast cars and more champagne than H2O. Taking in the scene alone (along with the infectious buzz of the streets) was an experience in itself! Then throw in a bespoke VIP itinerary which included visiting the pit; walking the track; attending the best Monaco hotspots; and being transported along via private jets, helicopters, speedboats and a convoy of Mercedes S Classes. I mean seriously… #Spoilt
Despite all of this, for me the highlight was discovering the real art of Formula One racing through the victorious Mercedes AMG Petronas team themselves… I mean at one point we were listening in on the same radios that the racing team were using while communicating to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on the track mid-race! The guys were so generous with their time and explained every little detail of what really goes on in this sport, ultimately leaving me with a whole new appreciation for it… possibly even a new addiction.
I’ve always thought formula one racing was just about flashy fast cars and a great driver… I'm embarrassed now by how ignorant I was. An F1 driver is just one member of a huge team that employs hundreds of people, plus they are so secretive about their strategies and the science behind their cars, that I’d light-heartedly compare it to the cold war. As much as a good driver is important (this goes without saying) he can’t win the race if another great driver is driving a better and faster car. It’s like the yin and the yang – they go hand in hand - so subsequently millions of dollars are spent developing technology to make the cars as speedy as possible.
Aerodynamics and weight are key factors in the engineering of these vehicles. Anything that slows the vehicle down even by split seconds can mean the difference between winning or losing the race. Then of course you have different types of tyres depending on the track environment and drivers will change these throughout the race according to the weather and how the track is changing. Knowing which tyres to use and for how long, is a skill in itself - again it can mean the difference between winning or losing. Lewis had a clever tyre strategy in Monaco which saw him go from third position on the starting grid to first position across the finish line (other factors involved too of course). Everything about this sport boils down to knowledge, precision and skill.
So without getting way too geeky and boring you with all the other mathematical elements that make this sport a true science (I can feel I’ve already been bashing away at this keyboard for way too long on this subject) you can probably already see that, there are a lot of clever brains behind a triumphant driver, many more than you may have assumed. It goes without saying that the drivers also have skillsets that far surpass the talents of us mere mortals, but if I get started on that too, then this blog post may never end… so instead I’ll shed a wee bit of light on this in the fun facts section below.
- Because the car is so low to the ground and the engine (which is burning at high speeds for little over an hour) is positioned directly beneath the driver, formula one drivers endure incredible amounts of heat during a race - sometimes up to 60 degrees inside their cockpit! Plus they lose an average of 4kg in weight by the time they cross the finish line. It takes a lot of conditioning to be a driver as normal human bodies simply can’t survive this. I was told that it’s not uncommon for drivers to get blisters on their bottoms from the burn!
- In the days preceding very hot races like Australia, Malaysia, and Brazil, the drivers can drink up to 8 litres of water in preparation before their race. Sports studies have underlined the importance of fluid level in the body stating a person who has lost 4% of body weight can lose up to 40% of their psycho-physical ability (and we definitely don’t want that if behind the wheel of a car travelling at 200 mph).
- Technology now allows engineers to create holes in the engine which are a thinner than the diameter of one single strand of hair! Thousands of these tiny holes allows better aerodynamics during the drive as the wind can come in and out through the engine quickly.
- Professional drivers are like jockeys who stick to strict diets to keep off the pounds. The lighter they are, the better they perform on the track.
- Drivers have to remove the steering wheel to get inside the car. A latch behind the steering wheel releases it from the column.
- Even the weight of paint is taken into consideration when deciding on how to engineer these cars. Only certain paints are used (obviously those with less weight & friction) and sometimes paint is even stripped off if it’s seen to accumulate too much weight. There’s a great story about the Mercedes Silver Arrows which you should Google. Basically in 1934 the Mercedes-Benz W25 was 1kg overweight to qualify for the race, so they stripped all the white paint from the bodywork exposing the silver aluminium underneath, and then it passed on the scales.
- Drivers experience severe G-forces when they’re racing, another example of why they’re extraordinary athletes. Not only do they withstand these stressful forces but they can also make crucial, split-second decisions at the same time. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what a G-force was before now, so I’m guessing there’s a good pool of you who have no idea either? Well this is how it was explained to me… G-force is the pressure that gravity exerts on an object when it is accelerating relative to freefall – so for example, when they say drivers withstand up to 5g when taking on a corner, this is like being hit in the head with 5 x the force of gravity! (or 5 x your own weight). A drivers breath control is crucial because you can’t breathe freely above 3g – to do so would expose you to the risk of passing out - and these guys experience that and more.
NOW IMAGINE... You're the driver contending with all that G-Force, PLUS making split decisions in 50 degree heat, whilst holding conversation with your team mates back in the track pit AND maintaining control of your steering wheel (don’t forget your car is travelling at hundreds of kilometers an hour!). I haven’t even thrown in the bit about other cars being on the track yet, NOR the fact you want to win. I mean seriously?!!! These guys are INSANELY skilled and dangerous. It’s at moments like these that I’m glad I married a popstar!
1. If you haven’t been to the Grand Prix before, add it to your bucket list. Monaco is the penultimate race to attend.
2. Humans should be cloning the genetics of racing car drivers so if we ever need warriors to defend our planet, we’re all sorted.
3. Monaco Grand Prix may be the only event in the world where it’s deemed reasonable to combine private jets, helicopters, speedboats, fast cars and mega yachts all in one weekend. All were utilised fully!
4. IWC Watches & Mercedes epitomise “cool” and “luxury”.
5. Plan your wardrobe – maybe even invest in something new to help contend with the glitterati on the streets.
6. I didn’t even get to mention that we were hosted by the winning team and that our pal, Lewis Hamilton, took centre stage on the podium! Another mate (and fellow Aussie), Daniel Ricardo from Team Redbull, took second pip at the podium. It was an exciting weekend.
7. The only thing that could have made this weekend better, was if we had more time in the diary to stay and enjoy it!
I must say it’s always such a great feeling when your expectations are exceeded and boy did this Monaco trip do exactly that. I just love that one weekend away (which in all honesty I expected to be just a bit of a glamour-fest) turned out to be an absolute education. For me, that’s a much better way to make use of my time rather than just sip champagne. Thank you to everyone who played part in this magical weekend for us - you know who you are and we're both eternally grateful.