This time we experience what’s it like to be Charlie Hooper, Systems Engineer at Williams F1, on a regular Formula 1 race Sunday.
07:00 Wake up! 09:00 sees us arriving at the track. Straight into breakfast with a double-shot cappuccino, which is an absolute must.
09:15 We will have inspected the cars Saturday evening prior to the parc fermé covers going on and we will know at this point if we need to request any changes through the FIA. Sometimes the FIA choose to carry out any legality checks at this time, e.g. front wing deflection tests, and if this happens then I would ensure that these are all organised from the team side.
10:00 I will go through any reliability issues that arose during qualifying and any parc fermé changes from the morning to ensure I have all the details needed for our race engineering briefing meeting. All sections of the engineering department will raise their points during this meeting. As Systems Engineer I will talk through the notes on the chassis, reliability, and also any operations points, for example any changes to our grid procedure.
11:45 The cars will be fired up in the garage for final checks including checking the drivetrain works going through all the gears. I’ll be checking data in conjunction with the Controls Engineer to ensure that all systems are working correctly. A very light and quick lunch after this.
12:30 If the race strategy isn’t so clear cut we may have an additional meeting to give further information on the team’s plan for the race. Prior to leaving my desk I will always do a full reboot of my laptop and resave all work, restarting it with just the programmes I need running for the race.
13:00 Go to the garage and take my place at the central engineers’ station and make sure that once I am connected to the network I can see data from both cars on the telemetry system at my position. Carry out radio and intercom checks to everyone in the garage, on the pit wall and back in Grove.
13:30 The cars start their laps to the grid and depending on the event we’ll do between 1 and 3 laps. These laps are key for us to understand the final checks for car balance for the driver.
14:00 Race start! Throughout the race I keep my eye on all key systems including suspension loads. In the case of an issue I need to determine if it is critical and if so inform Rob Smedley on the pit wall and the relevant Race Engineer. In the case of an incident involving another car, I need to check all suspension data to make sure the car is safe to continue. If there is ever a fault during the race, it often shows up in data before anywhere else so it’s crucial to be constantly monitoring this.
Last lap When we have a good result or a podium, it would be great to immediately go and celebrate with the team, but one of the important jobs after the race finish is to monitor all systems to make sure the car gets back to parc fermé safely. Once the car has been switched off I can relax a little and leave my station in the garage.
15:30 I head back to the office to go through anything of interest from the race – for example if the driver reported that he felt the steering was getting heavier during the race – I will spend this time looking through the data to see if there is anything that shows up to explain it.
16:30 Post-race engineering debrief. The trackside engineering team, along with both race drivers, will talk through the race from their perspective. I will talk through any points regarding the chassis.
18:30 The cars are released from parc fermé after being checked by the FIA and the mechanics will bring the cars back to the garage. Myself and the Trackside Aerodynamicist will then go to the garage and inspect both cars and photograph any damage, missing parts or points of interest before the mechanics strip the cars down in preparation to travel to the next event.