My time with Marussia F1 Team in Canada
As is now known, the 2012 Marussia-Cosworth MR01 will be featured in rFactor2. Below is a screenshot of it in-development.
I figured I’d complete the earlier blog I posted about Lime Rock. Although chronologically the Lime Rock post should be read after this one, as I visited it after the Canadian Grand Prix.
Conversation first started between the team and I late 2011 about what we could do together. I had already made contact with a number of F1 teams, but discussions mostly were about older cars, or to try to find out who held the rights for teams which still ‘exist’ in the paddock under new names. Emails went back and forth, and it was fairly quickly mentioned that we could do a similar deal to what BMW Sauber did with the company for rFactor1, where their single car becomes an example Grand Prix car from that particular season.
I’ve been a fan of F1 since I was a child, and it was a part of my family routine that every Sunday morning when needed, I would be woken up to watch races in different timezones at 2-3am. We cheered on the likes of Mansell together, and this kind of support from my parents really helped foster my love for the sport. I know it inside out, and over the years I have got to know various personnel from various teams. Even though I have attended an official test or two now, I had never been to an actual Grand Prix, so when in June 2012, after my contact at Marussia and I had agreed what we were doing, I was offered the chance to go to the Canadian Grand Prix as a guest of the team, it literally gave me goosebumps…
I rented an economical car for the trip, and arranged to stay at the house of a friend in Kitchener on Wednesday night. I took I-94 east all the way from home to the Canadian border, where the crossing guard had a particularly hard time grasping that I was staying at the house of someone I had never met in-person (I guess they don’t have the internet in Canada?) I’d known the guy (Greg Moore) for a good few years, he was a member at iRacing when I was there, he may have even been a member at Race Sim Central, too. Frankly it feels like I’ve known him as long as I can easily remember. In any case, I was quite pleased that I had made a tank of gasoline last quite far into Canada, also.
I had a good time chatting with Greg and his Fiancee (now Wife) on Wednesday evening, then a good hearty breakfast Thursday morning, before I drove all the way to my hotel an hour outside of Montreal on the Trans-Canada highway. I didn’t really want to stay in the city itself, I figured that it would be cheaper to get a hotel outside, drive in, and pay to park. It turned out I was correct, and the rates to park were really fantastic, as were the taxis I took from parking to the track itself. The hotel was cheap, but I didn’t see a single insect. ;)
Day 1: Friday
After getting up early and driving into the city to find some cheap parking, I took a taxi to the track, and had to negotiate my way into the restricted area I had been told to meet someone from the team. Thankfully (probably as it was Friday, and lots of people were doing the same thing when first arriving), they were quite understanding, let me in, and someone from Marussia quickly came and handed me a couple of lanyards and passes.
I was quite surprised by the security for the paddock, which seems mostly a temporary construction. The gate is electronic, and you hold your card up to a specific place, for it to scan and open up. The person I had setup the deal with, was not attending this race, so after an introductory chat, we walked into the back of the garage.
Again, I was surprised by the garage itself. It is a temporary workshop in the back, an electronics station in the middle, and in the front, an active workshop for the actual race cars. I was amazed by the scale of it all… The amount of parts, spares, etc. I immediately thought to myself how huge the shipping bills must be to move this all around the globe. There are temporary walls erected everywhere, and each section had guys inside, working hard. I got a guided tour of it all, an explanation of who does what, basically the tour I saw them giving all of their corporate visitors (the guys who pay them a lot of money in sponsorship for the privilege) throughout the weekend.
Considering Free Practice 1 was about to begin, I was quite surprised to see the cars being worked on… I didn’t realize immediately that this was normal. The mechanics literally never stop working. They tear down and rebuild the car over and over again every chance they get, checking parts, flushing lubricants (which stink, by the way), etc. They also constantly polish the car, clean the ground, the walls, etc. THEY NEVER STOP WORKING.
The mechanics firing up the car right infront of me.
I was given a headset, and this gave me radio from Timo Glock and his Engineer. The kind of information I was able to hear, was amazing. I could hear them running through plans, discussing setup, and working through development runs. They would go out, and come in, go out, and come in… Constantly working to improve their chances. They were also painting hi-vis paint onto the car, so that Timo could make a run, so when it came back in, they could see how airflow was working with new low downforce package parts they were testing. A truly, truly cool experience to see, hear and be a part of.
Between sessions, the mechanics tore the car to pieces again, rebuilt it, tore it apart, rebuilt it. Every person had a section of the car that was their responsibility, it was amazing watching them going to work like Ants… I can’t emphasize enough that they work enormously hard. It became apparent through the radio chatter that Montreal (known for being hard on brakes) was giving Marussia brake issues. Fairly easy to deal with in the practice sessions, but obviously concerning for the race.
The paddock itself was a really cool place to be, you could see members of the media walking around, team members, drivers. The names and faces that if you’re a fan of the sport, you know all about. I’m not one to bother anyone famous, I just snapped a few candid pics here and there. It’s always interesting to see how someone reacts when they see a camera… Martin Brundle, for example, openly smiled just for me to take a picture, and this gives you a real impression that he, for example, is a nice guy. Very cool to just have access to that area.
I also made note where each team was located, so that I could visit those which interested me to talk about licensing their old cars when I had time over the weekend.
At the end of the day, I sat down for a much longer chat with my main contact at the race. It was very nice to talk about F1 with someone within the sport, but just as passionate about it as a fan like myself. We talked about our software, our plans, and went back and forth in discussions of the history of the sport.
Day 2: Saturday
I had planned on exploring the city, taking photos of the landscape and even some starry night shots near my hotel, but I was so tired, that never happened on the entire trip. Each day was just filled with time at the track.
Saturday saw the third practice session, and qualifying. Neither went very well for the team, their low downforce package not yet understood. So on Saturday I just listened and learned about the car from the radio, and enjoyed my time in the paddock. I visited a number of teams, got a lot more contacts, and felt pretty much trusted to do as I pleased, as I think it was recognized I wasn’t going to do anything stupid!
On Saturday I also got time to survey the car with and without bodywork, parts and engine, even with and without the undertray. In combination with the data Marussia supplied, this should make the rFactor2 car one of the most detailed (in terms of being based on actual real life information, rather than developer feelings) ever seen in a simulation. I’ve watched F1 for long enough to know that I would not have got the access to the car I did from any other team right now.
Day 3: Sunday
For Sunday, I checked out and drove into the city, arriving early. I expected some traffic, and thankfully missed any sign of such a thing. I watched the team begin work, then was given a Paddock Club pass, so I watched the early parts of the race eating some absolutely amazing food, drinking a glass of Champagne (just one, I knew I had a long drive after the race), then walked around a bit, looking for some photo opportunities with the Marussia car, any drivers who retired, and of the race itself.
The race didn’t go very well for the team, with Glock retiring with brake issues (as expected), while Pic had to nurse the car home.
It was a great day, that seemed over way too fast. I said my goodbyes to the guys and army of blonde women in the Marussia team, then jumped back in my car and drove to Lime Rock Park.
It is my opinion, that Marussia did an amazing job in 2012. They developed their own car for the first time, and due to that, they missed pre-season testing. Yet they held 10th-place in the constructors championship (which carries an enormous boost in funding for the following season – something they will be without again in 2013) for a long time, against a better funded team, and they did it without any KERS technology whatsoever. They lost 10th-place in the championship in the final, insane, race of the season, against a team who have the same Renault engine that won both the drivers and constructors championships.
Obviously I have to keep the survey and informational photos I took of the car private. However, you can see my photos from the weekend here.