The day we found ourselves inside the Manor garage

manor garage

After the end of the first test we were a tad miffed at the lack of communication coming out of the team.  We didn’t expect an all singing and dancing PR machine like Red Bull but in comparison to Renault and new boys Haas we felt that the team could have done more.   After coming across some hard data courtesy of a social media analytic’s company which showed that despite their lack of engagement, that Manor were the most talked about F1 team during pre-season testing across social media. So we wrote a blog discussing what we perceived was a missed opportunity for the team and urged them to do more.

Although we can see some impressive stats for a blog so new, we have no idea who is actually reading it so you can imagine our surprise when just a few hours after the blog was published we received an email from someone high up in the team thanking us for our constructive criticism.  The original blog post was never meant to be calling out of the team as we are more than aware as to how flat out teams have to work at this time of the year just to get the new car ready for the season.  We are also more than aware the problems the team have faced in the past year and that they are going through a massive rebuilding phase from what was basically a failed F1 team this time last year.  It was fantastic to know the comments were taken in the spirit they were intended and we were assured the comments would be taken on board and many of them would be implemented in due course.

Right enough in the opening hours of Test 2, the team started sending out informative and engaging tweets, kept us up to date with the technical issues they were facing that morning and last but not least, a tweet in Indonesian!  The good news is folks, more is coming.

During our email exchange it was established that we could go in and meet with the team during the Barcelona test.   We’d like to thank Jade de Vere-Drummond, firstly, for taking the time out of her extremely busy schedule to come fetch us from the wrong side of the track, walking us into the paddock and sorting us out with a paddock passes but also for not rolling her eyes or smirking when she was informed how we ended up in the paddock.  Having worked in a role similar to hers once upon a time and the amount of headaches pesky bloggers caused me, she was a lot nicer to me than were to them!

Secondly, we need to say a huge thank you to the team principle Abdulla Boulsien for escorting us around the paddock and allowing us to shadow him as he went about his duties.  We only spent a brief amount of time with him but could not fail to be impressed by his ability to multi-task as he went about his duties, we could barely walk a few yards without someone needing to talk to him about every angle of running a F1 team, some of which we had never even considered before.  We were delighted to hear that Abdulla reads the blog and really likes it.   High praise indeed.   Turns out it is not just us that is shocked by how popular the blog has gotten!   He was very open and candid to us about a number of subjects which was greatly appreciated.

One little thing we are sure they will not mind us mentioning was the inspiration behind the new stunning color scheme. Sadly, it was nothing to do with the Jakarta Metro-Mini.  They wanted the car to stand out from the rest of the grid and also considered the Green and Yellow. They eventually decided on the current color scheme but it was originally meant to be a lighter shade of Blue (think Man City blue) but when it came back from the paint shop it was darker than planned.   It still looks great and along with the Red Bull really stand out from the other dull looking cars this year.

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As if they had not already done enough for us, We were also given the absolute privilege of standing at the back of team garage as the team worked on Rio Haryanto’s car, fired it up and sent it out on track.  We’ve exchanged a few messages with Rio and it would have nice to say hello in person but he looked kinda busy.   It was a real thrill to stand in the garage with my headphones on listening to the race engineers relaying instructions to Rio and them receiving his feedback.  Something we won’t ever forget.

This was not our first visit to the F1 paddock. Back in 2006 we were guests of Toyota (don’t ask) at the Melbourne Grand Prix where we lived at the time.  They may been a terrible F1 team but they put on a great spread and free booze event and the younger us probably soaked up too much free beer and not enough of the experience of being behind the scenes at a F1 race.

Given our background, we are probably always more interested in what goes on behind the scenes than what you see on screen and we have long since been fascinated by the inner workings of the F1 paddock.  To some working in F1 and traveling round the world is about as glamorous as it gets. We won’t lie, we’d probably give our right arm to experience it but given that we can’t drive, have zero interest in engineering and our boy band good looks are slowly fading which rules out that type of PR job, we are aware it is not going to happen anytime soon.

However, there is a side of the F1 paddock that rarely gets discussed.  Essentially, it is a traveling circus of 600-700 people, who rarely interact with each other whilst they travel round the globe for 9 months of the year.   That is 9 months primarily spent away from friends and family, 9 months of constant air travel and 9 months on different time zones.  There is also the huge amount of time you have spend actually working, especially at this time of the year, as the teams get ready for the season and the first few fly away races.   One thing for sure is that the Manor mechanics we saw at work in Barcelona were not in down town Barcelona eating delicious tapas and enjoying a glass of Red like we were come 9 pm that evening.

In an alternative reality where we work in F1 we often wonder how we would react to traveling around the globe yet seeing nothing of it.   We have been fortunate enough to travel quite extensively.  We have lived and worked in both Melbourne and Singapore and spent a lot of time in Budapest and Barcelona, all placed that the F1 circus visits. We wonder how we would feel working at Albert Park, Melbourne where we used to live and knowing that our old flat, our favorite pub in the world (The Esky), our old gym and the famous St Kilda all night bakery were literally minutes walk away from the paddock and despite flying across the world to be there, we were chained to a small pen based in Albert Park.  We are not too sure we could handle that.

We often wonder if those who are part of the F1 circus think about this as well.  Of course, it is possible they don’t care either.  Either way, there are pro’s and cons to working in F1 and maybe being on this side of the fence and enjoying the freedom to explore the places F1 visits isn’t so bad either.

So thank you once again at all those at Manor Race Team who made our trip to pre-season testing so memorable.  Thank you for inviting us into your wonderfully frantic world. An experience we won’t forget.