NEWS FEATURE

Countdown to a Grand Prix, July 1996

There are probably times when you are sitting in a grandstand at the British Grand Prix when you wonder what teams are up to on a Sunday. Why is nothing happening? Grand Prix timetables around the world are all carefully planned to the last minute. The global broadcasting of races means that satellites have to be booked to beam the pictures around the world and so everyone is trying to avoid delays.

Over the years a timetable has been developed which caters for the needs of everyone involved. Each race is different. This is the normal timetable at Silverstone.

0500 The circuit gates are opened and the dedicated fans head around the circuit to claim their favorite viewing positions. The experienced race fan will be well-prepared for the day ahead with plenty of reading material, deckchairs, picnics and supplies.

0600 The campsites will start to stir as the hundreds of people who camp inside the Silverstone perimeter wake up. Team members tend to avoid this as they appreciate creature comforts when they are not working. Some teams stay in hotels and guest houses for miles around. Many stay at home with their families. Depending on how far they have to travel they will be up at 0600.

0645 The F1 motorhomers arrive to prepare for the day ahead. Their first task of the morning is to make breakfast for the mechanics, the team management and the drivers.

0700 The mechanics have breakfast. An army marches on its stomach and so the English teams make sure the boys are well fed with a traditional English fry up and a cup of tea.

0745 Other members of the F1 circus arrive before the spectator traffic begins to build up on the approach roads to the track. The first helicopters begin bringing in the VIPs and sponsor guests. The stream of choppers will continue until an hour before the race.

0800 After breakfast the F1 mechanics head for the garages to start work on the cars. Most teams use this time of the morning to get the mechanics going with a few practice pit stops. The motor homes begin serving breakfast to drivers, guests and media. Drivers get fruit. At some tracks there are pitlane walkabouts and rides around the circuit for spectators.

0900 The F1 engines are fired up and run for a few minutes so they will be warmed up in time for the warm up! The drivers will get kitted up in their overalls and be ready to go 10 minutes before the session begins. If there is a lot of work to be done they will sit in their cars at the end of the pitlane.

0930 The warm-up begins. Drivers will do one lap in-and-out to check that their spare cars are working and then will come in and switch around between cars, checking the set-up in the conditions. The session lasts for 30 minutes. The lap times recorded are sometimes useful to see which teams will be quick in the race but there are sometimes local drivers who want to make an impression so they run with light fuel tanks to give the fans and TV commentators something to talk about.

1000 The rules state that teams must have four hours between the warm-up and the race - except in exceptional circumstances. This is to make sure that if a car is badly crashed in the warm-up there is time to repair it. The drivers go into debriefing sessions with their engineers and discuss race strategy, the number of pit stops they are planning and how much fuel they wish to use at the start. Computer programmes show them the different options available - but ultimately strategy may depend on how much traffic they have to get through.

1100 The paddock begins to fill up as more and more VIPs arrive. Drivers tend to hide away in their motorhomes but they are chased out by the team managers to go to the driver briefing, which is normally held in the race control building. They sign autographs on the way. The race director warns them of any particular problems with the track and drivers raise any issues they think are important. If drivers miss the briefing the to pay for him, obviously we'd be going after Michael. You have to look at the marketplace and then make a decision about which one you think you can work best with. Gil is a really good guy. In my opinion a first rate driver but we will have to see how things develop."<\#026>e army postal service sent it to Toulouse instead of Toulon, but finally it caught up with me and I went to work for L'Equipe.'

Johnny was lucky, his dreams of being a racer came true and he competed many events including the Tour de France final preparations are made to their cars. In the event of rain there is the provision for an extra 15-minute session - but only if all the practice sessions have been in the dry.

1215 On the race track there are parades and displays to keep the crowds amused. The Formula 1 presentation - which will have been rehearsed the night before - begins at 1245 with the flags of each competing nation being paraded and the national anthems being played. You will hear the odd grumble of an F1 engine being run up as this takes place.

1300 The circuit is inspected by the race director, who checks the circuit in one of the course cars. Course cars will have run around all morning giving VIPs a look at the race track.

1315 With 45 minutes to go before the start of the race, the track is officially closed. A course car goes around displaying a red flag. People are not allowed to cross the track after this. The grid girls will make their way out onto the circuit and you will see the photographers trudging off to their favorite spots. You will hear the engines being run up in the garages.

1330 The pitlane and track are declared open for the F1 cars and they set off for what are called the recognition laps. The TV commentators will often start their programmes with half an hour to go. The cars can do several laps but they must go through the pitlane if they want more than one. If not they form up on the dummy grid. They then climb out of the cars again, chat to engineers, do interviews and meet excited sponsors who has been allowed onto the grid.

1343 A warning signal announces that the pitlane will close in two minutes. If teams miss the deadline the driver must start the race from the pits.

1345 The pit exit is closed. All the cars should be out on the dummy grid, which will be jammed with people.

1350 The 10-minute board is shown and a klaxon warns everyone to clear the grid. Only drivers officials and technical staff are allowed to remain. Watch closely and you may see F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone shooing people off the grid.

1355 The five minute warning board is shown and a hooter sounds. The grid should be cleared, although team members will be gathered around the cars.

1357 The three minute warning board is shown. Everyone prepares to fire up the cars. Watch out for any frantic action because that will indicate if a team is in trouble.

1359 The one minute warning board is shown. Engines are fired up and the mechanics move to the side of the track. Half a minute later a 30 sec board warns drivers that the green flag is about to be waved.

1400 The green flag is waved and the cars leave the grid for a final parade lap, the drivers maintaining their grid position. If a driver cannot start his car he must wait before being sent off. If this happens he must start at the back of the grid. If the car cannot be started it must be pushed into the end of the pitlane before the field returns from its parade lap. While the field is on the parade lap the mechanics will be struggling to get everything into the pitlane and out of the way.

1403 The cars return to the grid. When everyone is in the right place the starting procedure takes over automatically - sensors under the cars triggering the system. The five red lights come on one after another and when the go out the race is on!

Follow grandprixdotcom on Twitter
Print Feature