The Formula 1 World: inside and outside the garage
The 2015 Formula 1 World Championship is about to begin and the teams finalised their preparations at the Circuit de Catalunya. 20 racers will be in the spotlight in two weeks’ time for the start of the season, but Formula 1 is not just about the drivers themselves. Apart from the household names of Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, there is a little known world that every two weeks travels from one side of the world to the other. On the one hand, there are the people who work around the F1 team itself such as the press officers, who manage communication between the different parts of the team and also with the media. On the other, all the circuits mobilise an army of volunteers who sacrifice their day job to be "marshals" at the circuit to take care of the drivers’ safety.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Formula 1 pre-season finished last week at the Circuit de Catalunya, and in two weeks’ time 20 racers will be in the spotlight for the start of the season. However, Formula 1 is not just about the drivers themselves. Apart from the household names of Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, there is a little world around them that travels from one side of the world to the other every two weeks. On the one hand, there are the people who work around the F1 team such as the press officers who manage communication between the different parts of the team and also with the media. On the other, every city with a track on the Formula 1 calendar mobilises a lot of people and prepares itself to receive this entourage. But tracks or events like Formula 1 tests are only possible thanks to lots of volunteers who sacrifice their day job to be "marshals" at the circuit and, for example, take care of Alonso’s safety if he crashes. All this with the aim of the public enjoying the show.
A travelling circus
Formula 1 is one of the most spectacular sports in the world and the media has created a glamorous image about this world, known for its elitism. The competitiveness inside F1 is not a secret: it is not just the drivers who compete to be the best but also the people behind them, from technicians to strategists. Everybody who is working in F1 is the best in their field.
A lot of people work in an F1 team. Although drivers get all the public and media attention, there is an entire crowd of people behind them. One of the members of this crowd is the press officer. Will Hings, of Sahara Force India Team, explains that “the role of the press officer is to be the point of contact for all media enquiries about the team”. That means that all communications related with the team and the drivers’ media activities are carried out by the press officer.
Although F1 seems an amazing place from the outside, the reality is slightly different. People who work in this world have a very busy agenda and the pressure to meet great expectations regardless of the workspace. The members of a F1 team work all year round. The most complicated time is when the season or pre-season starts. Andy Stobart, head of communications at Team Lotus, told CNA what a normal day at work is like during a Test Day in the pre-season: “I arrive at the circuit around 8 am and leave around 8 pm. I check on the overnight improvements on the car, inform drivers of the media requirements for the day, speak to the media, ensure that the correct information is given to the media and through social media channels, write press releases…” Even though Stobart spends nearly 12 hours at the circuit, he does not hesitate in describing his job as “surprising, fun and relentless”.
F1 is related to travelling. A lot of people dream of working in F1 due to the opportunity to travel almost every week. Press officers must travel to all the circuits during the season as part of their work. Although Stobart and Hings define their job as interesting and exciting, they enjoy staying at home during the breaks. “Having travelled so much during the season, it's often nice just to stay at home. However, it's not long before your attention turns to the new season and there is plenty to prepare” explains Hings. On the other hand, Stobart doesn’t hesitate in explaining that “F1 is not as glamorous as people on the outside world think: there is lots of time spent at airports, jet-lag, airline food and long days at work. Despite this, there is a great camaraderie between everyone in the team and also with other teams: it’s like a big family or a travelling circus”.
A marshal’s point of view
The "marshal" is the person who works at the track looking after the drivers’ safety. José Luis Blasco is a control head at the Circuit de Catalunya at the exit of turn number nine. He decided to be a marshal due to his love of motorsport and despite the fact that this is practically a volunteer job and he has to combine his hobby with his everyday job. Blasco explains that there are days when he spends between ten and twelve hours at the circuit “I have to organise the spot and co-ordinate everything we need to do our work. During the Grand Prix we have to control the situation and be aware of the possible flags and irregularities”.
Marshals see the F1 from the inside and the outside at the same time; they are in the middle. For this reason, Blasco knows that not everything related to this sport is glamorous and that the world of F1 is very closed. Despite this, he considers the sport to be “spectacular, exciting and sublime” and assures that he would like to work inside this world although “it must be very difficult to work inside F1 due to all the time that you must spend far away from home and the exhaustive timetables”.
F1 from the outside
Like every year, Pere Garriga is waiting for the start of the new F1 season. “I can’t wait. I always wait excitedly for the Grand Prix because those are the weekends where I can see the best drivers around the world fighting on the same track”. Garriga has been a fan of this sport for a long time. Although he knows that the show is on the track, he doesn’t forget all the people that there are behind the driver. “I’m really surprised by the huge precision of all the teams; everybody has a task that has to be done perfectly”.
Although the media presents a glamorous image of F1, Garriga thinks that behind the curtain there is a stressful world: “the members of the Team must suffer a lot: anything can spoil the work of weeks, and engineers have a big responsibility on their shoulders”. Despite this, he adds “F1 is a board game and I’d love to be part of this thrilling world”.
In Spain, football is the sport which receives all the attention from the media. Because of this, F1 is often forgotten. Over recent years, thanks to the success of Fernando Alonso in the championship, F1 has become better known. Garriga explains that “this sport is not exposed enough but it is true that media have some difficulties: F1 teams hide their activity in order to avoid espionage between them”.