Behind the scenes with the Lotus F1 racing team

This piece was originally in Nuts magazine

Think a Formula 1 team consists of a few mechanics, a couple of drivers and someone to neck the free champagne? Wrong. Nuts heads to Silverstone for practice day at the British Grand Prix to find out exactly how the Lotus F1 Team goes about its business… 8.05am We’re at Silverstone! It may be raining, but Nuts is just one of the tens of thousands of people who’ve turned up to see the first day of practice at the British Grand Prix. A flash of a posh pass gets us into the ultra-exclusive paddock – and a date with the Lotus F1 team. This is more like it. 9.15 Every team has a portable HQ the size of a small hotel in the paddock complete with restaurants, offices and private rooms for drivers to chill in. With 80-100 staff working for Lotus on every race, it’s a big operation – thank the Lord for all that TV and sponsorship money! 9.52 Nuts is invited into the pits where crews of technicians make constant adjustments on Lotus F1’s two cars, one each for drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Each driver has his own personal team, with the whole lot overseen by the Trackside Operations Director. 10.04 Roman gets into his car for an “installation lap”, to get the car running. When he returns, the tyres are immediately taken off and put in their own heated  “sleeping bags”, to keep the temperature up and enhance their grip. The garage stinks of burning rubber.

With cars from every team screeching past us, Roman comes back and has a word with Nuts. “I love doing this job,” he says. “You know, I’m just a normal guy, but I love winning, whether it’s on the track or playing tennis.” We’re sure Kimi feels the same way! 11.00 As the teams waits for the rain to stop we’re told that while Lotus sponsors the team, they don’t actually make the cars. Instead, the the engine’s manufactured by Renault, while the rest of the car is put together by a team in Oxfordshire, who’ve been in the F1 game since 1981. 12:00 Nuts corners Lotus F1’s fuel technician Dave. So, do you fill the cars up with four-star? “No, this is specialist racing fuel made by our sponsors Total. We calculate how much we’ll need for each race, because too much fuel means extra weight and that slows the car down.” 13.05 It’s lunch, and we’re given a look at the amazing steering wheel by Lotus F1 lady Fleur: “All the gears – except first – are controlled by paddles on the back. The DRS (Drag Reduction System) system, which alters the angle of the rear flap, is also controlled from here. 2.30 With the rain petering out, drivers Kimi and Romain come into the Lotus garage for the afternoon session. Kimi has a word with his personal physiotherapist, while Romain get into his seat and starts the ignition. The noise is deafening as he drives off – no wonder the crew wear ear plugs. 2.40 On the track, Roman’s in constant touch with his own dedicated engineer, who gives him orders and informs him how the car’s running. Meanwhile, the Lotus F1/Renault telemetrics team study the data transmitted by the engine so it can be tuned for the next run-out. 3.30 After several spins around the circuit, Kimi and Romain arrive back in the Lotus garage, quickly departing the scene. The cars are disassembled with the wheels and engines taken away within a matter of minutes. If only all garages operated at this speed.

4.00 As the fans leave, the technicians begin work on the cars, including two of the eight engines that the team posses. While the lure of top-notch nosh in the Lotus HQ is tempting, Nuts decides to do its bit and polish the car for tomorrow’s qualifying session. Well, someone’s got to!


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