The Paddock. Formula 1's inner sanctum. With perimeter fencing and security tight enough to rival an airport, this part of F1 is rarely seen. It is here that the F1 drivers, teams, media and VIP celebrities mingle. If you've ever wanted to know what goes on inside the Paddock, hopefully you'll enjoy this behind the scenes look at the Singapore Grand Prix.
There's quite a procedure to get into the Paddock and access is strictly regulated. You first pass a checkpoint where an official visually checks your ID. After that you need to swipe your pass at an electronic turnstile that, so long as you have the right credentials, displays your name and photo on a screen before opening. Your bags are then subjected to a scan on a conveyor belt while you go through a metal detector and a second check with a wand. Access to the Media Room also requires another swipe. Many fans gather at the entrance to the Paddock after the race in hope of snagging an autograph or two from the drivers.
Inside, the Paddock is a constant beehive of activity. This photo was taken just after midnight.
A driver's job doesn't finish when the chequered flag is waved. After the race, the drivers face a barrage of media obligations in the pen.
There was a media frenzy every time Lewis Hamilton emerged from the garage.
The Italian Grand Prix was the last European race of the season; the remaining races are classified by the teams as 'fly aways'. For the European races, teams bring along their own hospitality suites, some of which are stunning glass, multi-storey buildings that are assembled on site. At Singapore, each team is instead allocated a hospitality suite for their guests.
Those ugly carbon wheel covers – which helped direct air to the brakes – have been banned. It was interesting to see the unique BBS rim design that Ferrari use. In case you were wondering, Formula 1 cars run on 13-inch rims.
800,000 tonnes of equipment is brought in for every race. With teams travelling 100,000 miles per season, there's plenty of logistical work involved to ensure everything arrives on time.
For the fly away races, the teams use their own containers that are destined for either air or sea shipment.
Everything is methodical in Formula 1. On the walls of the cargo containers you'll find the teams have photos or checklists for what it should contain. With F1 races on every other Sunday, the teams are constantly setting up or tearing down their pit garages.
During a race weekend, the pit garages are hidden by demountable walls for privacy. With these pulled down and packed away, it allowed for a peak into their work environment.
Somewhat more grunty than the PC you have at home.
While their pit garages were being pulled down around them, the Sauber engineers were still busy at work.
The crews need to set up and pack down the garages 19 times a year. I don't envy these guys.
A stack of Nitrogen bottles being packed away.
Various spare parts are always on hand, such as multiple front wings for Force India.
Forget about entering this building!
The media room offered some air-conditioned respite from the humidity. Situated above the pit garages, the media have a clear view of the pit lane and main straight, with monitors showing the television feed and race data. There are some amazing discussions between the journalists during the race; when I was here in Singapore in 2008, the reporter next to me noted that Alonso was likely to win as soon as the notorious 'crash-gate' incident occured.
This is a good view of Adrian Newey's and Christian Horner's workspace during the race. Each year, the pit wall seems to get even more advanced. With telemetry being dumped from the car to the garage every lap, Formula 1 has evolved into a team sport. In this photo you can see each Red Bull member has two LG screens, one in front and one above. Strategy plays an important role in F1, with the pit wall constantly calculating the optimal time to pit. Pit stops are a great way to leap frog the car in front, but at the same time it can all go wrong if the driver emerges from the pit lane into a pack of squabbling cars. The pit wall also communicates with the team and drivers on separate channels.
Each team has their setup for the pit wall…
…Which are modular in design so they are easy to transport.
After the race, the cars stay in parc ferme so the FIA can inspect them to ensure legality. The cars are also put into parc ferme after qualifying. Gone are the days where teams were able to run quali engines that were swapped out before the race. Teams are still able to make changes to the car but must submit a written request to the FIA. Sauber, for example, needed to make extensive suspension changes to Kamui Kobayashi's car after his qualifying crash. The Red Bull team also changed components in their KERS cooling units before the race.
McLaren's pit garage showed off their previous success in the Constructors' Championship.
Anthony Hamilton, father of World Champion Lewis Hamilton, could be found in the Paddock. Hamilton Snr is the manager for driver Paul Di Resta, however he no longer manages his son. Lewis announced last year that he would split (in terms of management) with his father, and has recently joined XIX Entertainment. XIX is owned by Simon Fuller – who created the Idol television franchise – that also manages David and Victoria Beckham, J Lo and a host of others. XIX also came up with the 'earth' livery on Honda's 2007 F1 cars.
World Champion Jenson Button had his father and girlfriend – Jessica Michibata, the Japanese lingerie model – by his side in Singapore.
Former team owner Eddie Jordan has become a TV pundit. As the lead analyst for the BBC, he could be seen hunting down interviews in the paddock.
Ex-F1 driver David Coulthard is another F1 personality who has made the jump into television.
Here, James Allen interviews Red Bull's Christian Horner for ONE HD.
After the race, Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren's team principal, was being interviewed about Lewis Hamilton's collision with Felipe Massa.
Unlike Indy, tyre blankets are allowed in Formula 1. These work like an electric blanket, heating the tyres to 80-100 degrees Celsius.
F1 cars are run so close to their minimum weight that once the drivers have crossed the finish line, they will cruise off the racing line to pick up marbles.
Although Formula 1 is such a high-tech environment, the tyres are cleaned the old way with a heat gun, scraper and plenty of elbow grease.
With each car allocated 44 tyres per race weekend (not including intermediate and wets), you'll constantly find the teams mounting them, cleaning the rims or wrapping them in blankets. In the Singapore heat, this must have been the worst job in the pit lane.
Each tyre is marked according to which corner it came from…
…With the marble pick-up removed, depth is measured across the face of the tyre. In Spa, the tyres on the two Red Bull cars came under scrutiny, as Pirelli discovered they were running camber angles that were beyond their recomended range. This meant the inner edge was wearing excessively.
Pirelli individually photograph each used tyre for future reference and analysis.
For me as an F1 fan, I think it's great to have the Senna name back in the sport. Bruno Senna, nephew of the triple World Champion, came close to getting drive with Honda in 2009 before they announced their withdrawal from Formula 1. After racing for HRT last year, it looked like he would be without a drive for 2011. Before the Belgium Grand Prix, the Renault team announced that he would be replacing Nick Heidfeld (who also happened to be roaming the Paddock in Singapore).
Norbert Haug is a familiar face in the world of motorsport. He is the Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport.
It was close to 4am when I left the track. The organisers were kept busy through the night repairing the temporary ripple strips, which were being torn free during practice.
Being a street circuit in the middle of the city, the Singapore Grand Prix presents some unique challenges. It wasn't easy to get around as there are several buildings – including hotels and a shopping centre – in the middle of the track. Over the three days I walked over 23km.
Teams practice pit stops relentlessly. Here, the McLaren team practice tyre changing in the hours before the race. As refuelling has been banned, teams have cut their pit stop times down to as short as 2.8 seconds.
During the practice sessions the teams will do pit stops to practice tyre changes. The drivers will then do a burnout out of the box to lay rubber down on the slickly painted surface. Here Mark Webber has completed the routine and is being wheeled back into the garage.
One of the most enjoyable things about being a Speedhunter is meeting our readers around the world. It turned out that a few of the Singapore track officials were regular readers!
As quite a few of you have requested some Formula 1 desktops, we'll be preparing a batch in the coming days!
- Charles Kha