If you’re a follower of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes on Twitter, you’ll be familiar with our resident Tweeter The Fifth Driver. From inside Mission Control in the MTC to rubbing shoulders with the pit crew in the race bays, The Fifth Driver provides the most insightful look into all that goes on in and around grand prix races via @McLarenF1. And what’s more, every Friday we ask The Fifth Driver on @McLarenF1 to take your questions for #SocialFriday. Here’s a few favourites so far...
Do the pit crew also follow a strict diet & training program?
Yes, the banning of refueling at the end of 2009 shone the spotlight on the physical preparedness of the pitcrew, who were now required to change four wheels in under three seconds. We not only run regular fitness sessions for the crew, but also organise an annual week of training and assessment before the start of each season.
How many helmets will the drivers use over a race weekend?
Each driver has between two to three helmets available during a weekend. It’s always useful to switch helmets between sessions, so that they can be adequately cleaned, dried and prepared for the next day. An additional spare can be fitted with rain visors, too.
What gym schedule do the drivers follow – all-cardio or weights?
Most drivers agree that the best way to keep fit is to follow a fitness regime that they enjoy. For both our drivers, that means lots of outdoor work – running, cycling, swimming and hiking – with additional gym exercise thrown in to improve core stability and muscular strength.
How often do the pit crew practice a pitstop to keep them on form?
The crew not only practice pitstops back at the factory – refining and improving the technique during the winter months – they spend each day of a grand prix carrying out practice sessions. That can mean as many as 80 practice stops per weekend!
Do you take the same Brand Centre to each race?
Yes. The Brand Centre travels between all European races on a fleet of transporters and can be erected in three days by a crew of skilled riggers and technicians. It can be de-rigged and transported in under two days, making set-up between back-to-back races a real act of skill and efficiency.
Out of all the tracks, which would be the best to drive in the opposite direction?"
The fast, hilly tracks would probably offer the widest possible difference from the norm. In that case, Suzuka, Spa, Interlagos and Sepang would all be pretty interesting challenges.
What happens to old kit once it's been worn?
We have a very efficient clothing department. All team kit is returned to the factory between races where it’s laundered and returned to each member of the crew. Team members get refresher batches of shirts during the season, as well as new clothing whenever branding patches are changed.
How long does it actually take to set up a pit garage on a race weekend?"
About three days. The first members of crew arrive at the start of the week, level and paint the floor and start the building of the internal walls that mark out the separate areas within the garage. The cars arrive on Wednesday and the whole is completed by Thursday, the first day of a race weekend.
Is there anything in particular you focus on in practice – eg: handling rather than straightline speed?
Friday morning is usually spent assessing any new components and establishing a baseline set-up – which is initially derived from computer simulation. Friday afternoons are typically a tyre-comparison session. Saturday morning is a chance to assess any overnight changes and practice for qualifying. If it rains, though, that’s all thrown in the air!