Life on the road - how teams cope with flyaway races 13 Apr 2010
With the opening four rounds of the 2010 Formula One season all flyaway races, it has been well over five weeks since the teams cars have been on home soil. Life on the road may sound glamorous, but without the home comforts of the factory it's a challenge for teams to keep their cars in tip-top shape. Renault explain the measures they take to ensure their R30s remain fit for action...
The first thing to mention is the reliance on air freight to ferry various car components around the globe. While it's true that the actual chassis haven't been back to the teams UK factory at Enstone, a fair amount of the R30's components have been making regular trips back. In fact, over a tonne of air freight was shipped back to Enstone from Sepang last week, packed full of bodywork and suspension components in need of servicing.
"All the key parts on the car have a design life and a service life," explains Renault technical director, James Allison. "When a component reaches its service life, it has to come off the car and return to the factory for assessment, and if that means shipping it to the other side of the world, then that's what has to be done. That's the case, for example, with our carbon suspension components, which need proof testing after each Grand Prix so that we can locate any potential weaknesses."
Having to send so much freight back to the factory is a major logistical challenge and often requires members of the team to carry parts back as hand luggage on commercial flights. That was the only way to meet the deadlines imposed by the back-to-back races in Australia and Malaysia with less than a week to get parts back to Enstone, serviced and out to Sepang.
Proof testing of components doesn't just happen at Enstone, though. At each race there's a travelling non-destructive testing expert on hand to keep an eye on critical components. "We can check a lot of the composite materials using ultrasound to locate any weaknesses," explains Renault chief engineer Alan Permane. "If we are running a new front wing then we'll use this technique to scan certain points on the wing for stress fractures. We will inspect the wing after the installation lap and then after each run to make sure everything is performing as it should."
Reacting to unexpected curve balls is also important, as the team discovered in Melbourne when the roll hoop on Vitaly Petrov's car was damaged when the car was returned to the pits on the back of a truck. At times like these it's only the resources of the factory that can come to the rescue: the design team in Enstone produced a bespoke repair kit that was sent out to Sepang ready to be fitted to the car. Without such reactivity it would have been a struggle for the race team to fix the car on-site.
While most of the cars' components have been serviced or replaced, there's little that can be done to preserve the cosmetic appearance of the cars during flyaway races. Repainting is a luxury that has to be put on the back-burner and both R30s will be carrying a few battle scars into this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix. There's nothing major, just the odd chip to the paintwork here and there. The cars will get a fresh coat of paint when they arrive back at the factory next week so that they're in pristine condition for the start of the European season.