What F1 merchandise can be purchased?

Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton fans have a great choice of Formula 1 merchandise. Starting with clothing, this is available for men, women and kids and features a great collection of tops, jackets, caps and a special Hugo Boss collection of teamware which includes a limited edition team jacket. There are also special Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton ranges so you can show your support of your favourite driver.

If you want that McLaren look but you don’t want to be more discrete regarding displaying the logo, then you should look at the Lifestyle McLaren and McLaren Sport collection. Undeniably McLaren, there are some superb tops and jackets ranging from the very affordable to the top of the range luxury slim fit leather jacket.

Although clothing tends to be the first thing we think of when it comes to team merchandise, the McLaren range extends far further than that. At the lower end of the price scale there is a range of teamware which includes novelty items such as a team lanyard, team earplugs (which can be very useful if you attend any live F1 races), key rings featuring a either miniature helmet or an embossed speedometer, earphones, a stationery set and the official 2012 calendar.

Moving further up the price range there are some excellent model cars at 1/8 scale. These are created from the original design data and each component is cast by hand using resin with the smaller ones being machined from aluminium. These models are 60 cm long, which is great for displaying every detail of the car. At around £3,500 these are not inexpensive, but the quality is stunning. There are also some cheaper die-cast models, slot car racing kits featuring models of both Jenson Button’s and Lewis Hamilton’s cars, along with a number of construction kits.

You can buy books and DVDs, posters of every race in the 2011 season along with some signed by Lewis Hamilton and replica helmets that range from half scale models to full sized replicas.

Alonso favourite for championship

Given the intensity of the drama off the track over the past fortnight you d be forgiven for feeling a bit deflated after witnessing the action on it. The Italian and Belgian Grand Prix just about captured the interest of the sport s regular viewers but would have no doubt done little to satisfy the needs of new followers lured in by the intrigue of Mclarengate.

Alonso and Raikkonen, in cars beautifully suited to the respective circuits, took it in turns to outclass the opposition most notably championship leader Lewis Hamilton and quashed any real racing between the big four.

But dull the races may have been, insignificant they most certainly were not.

Indeed, if Alonso should go on to triumph in this years drivers championship, the last two races at Monza and Spa-Francorchamps will be remembered as decisive turning points in the Spaniard s campaign. Despite all the pressures surrounding his alleged involvement in the spy scandal, he delivered qualifying and race performances that literally blew Hamilton away.

The young Englishman simply didn t have an answer for his team-mate s pace; and it showed. Some commentators have put this down to tightening up in the latter stages of the championship. Others have attributed it to Hamilton s inexperience in the technical development of the car citing stories of Alonso refusing to share his setup data. And there is also the ridiculous suggestion that Alonso s mechanics are in some way more motivated than Hamilton s by virtue of being on the Spaniard s pay roll.

But not enough credit has gone to Alonso in my view who has very quietly and quite out of nowhere discovered at least a two-three tenth of a second advantage over his team-mate. This is a huge gain if you think back to Hungary and Turkey.

Yet somewhere along the way, amidst the turmoil of events in the paddock and obscured by the lack of on track action, two stunning drives in which Alonso has driven the wheels off his Mclaren have allowed themselves to be overshadowed. The first, at Monza, rewarded Alonso with a much deserved victory, the second, at Spa and in the context of absolute supremacy from Ferrari, delivered a podium and psychological blow to Hamilton.

Hamilton s frustration has really started to show off the track and was encapsulated this week in his very public outburst at Alonso s blocking tactics at the start of the Belgium Grand Prix. You would have to say that it is slightly hypocritical of Hamilton to criticise Alonso given his own extremely aggressive move off the start line at the Italian Grand Prix by far one of the highlights of the race. In any case the outburst lies in stark contrast to the rather solemn demeanour following similar frustration earlier in the season at Monaco. How quickly the relationship between these two has changed.

So as the F1 circus gears up for the final rounds of the championship, the balance of power lies very much with Alonso. Just as you would back a man who had climbed Everest before to triumph a second time over a man who had not, so Alonso must be favourite to clinch the championship. And let s not forget that he has on his CV a feat no other driver will ever claim for himself: he has outraced and outfoxed a one Michael Schumacher to the title.

Christopher Hayes

Turkey: A question of logisitics

The Turkish Grand Prix provides an interesting challenge for F1 logistics, being a link between Europe and Asia. As the circuit is actually not too far from most team HQs, many teams are opting to have their team trucks and motorhomes travel by sea instead of air, utilising the port in the Trieste to moor the boats before the overland travel to Istanbul.

Sea freight is an old-fashioned way to travel but it actually a much cheaper option than air travel. With a significant three week break before the Turkish Grand Prix, many teams are opting for this money-saving option including one of the top teams, Ferrari.

Ferrari s head of logistics Miodrag Kotur explained, “Sending equipment by ship is much, much cheaper than using the FOM air charter. To give you an idea of the saving, it is still cheaper, even though it involves having three sets of everything that we sea freight, totalling around 15,000 kg.” Three sets are required to shuttle parts around the world to cover all non-European races.

“The equipment we sent to Australia for the first race of the season came back to Italy for re-stocking before being sent off to China,” Kotur continued. “The package that went to Malaysia will be next seen in Japan, while the freight first use in Bahrain then went on to Canada, USA and Brazil. Each package contains exactly the same equipment included in the list of equipment is stuff that in the past we would have hired on-site at the circuits such as tables and chairs and kitchen equipment.”

“Hire costs are so high that is it more economical to buy these things at home, as well as items such as generators, cables connections and so forth, and then send them by sea. A single chair can be ridiculously to hire this is Formula 1 after all! We can buy equipment and use it over several years so it is a good way of further amortising the costs.”

One of the few things that are never sent by sea are the car parts. Over the course of a season, many technological changes are made and this means the car components may change from race to race. However large bulky parts such as the garage dividers, along with furniture and non-race essentials are best transported using ships.

The new Japanese circuit for 2008 located by Mount Fuji will also produce an interesting challenge for F1 logistics planners. Because it is located in the mountains, there are few hotels and amenities near-by making finding suitable accommodation for the whole F1 circus a difficult task. The journey from the capital, Tokyo, to the circuit takes around three hours and the track has just one small road leading up to it meaning there could be some large traffic jams. Race organisers are contemplating creating an “F1 personnel” route with a 25 km radius around the circuit to try and improve traffic flow over the weekend.

The behind the scenes work that supports an F1 team is oft forgotten by fans and many do not realise the challenges and planning that go into getting the drivers and cars to the races around the world.

Race Control

Race control is at the heart of Formula 1 races. Race control is responsible for monitoring and supervising the practice sessions, the qualifying sessions and the race itself.

Race control has screens which show all parts of the circuit so that problems can be flagged quickly and dealt with.

They have a timing data feed that they can watch – this is the same feed that is given to the teams. They will also have access to other racing information such as information from the pit lane speed trap so that they can check that all cars are running a fair race and adhering to all the FIA’s rules and regulations.

Race control are in constant contact with the principal marshals, the safety car, the medical response car and the medical centre, both via telephone and radio. This means that if any major unexpected event occurs, the Race Director can deploy any one of these safety teams to the scene quickly and safely.

The Race Director has a whole support team behind him – both FIA personnel and local circuit personnel. Race control have the responsibility for ensuring all driver’s abide by the rules and they will punish any drivers who break these rules – the most common punishment is a ‘drive-through’ where the drivers have to drive through the pit-lane instead of going down the main straight. For more complex disciplinary issues such as someone causing an accident, the penalties will be decided at the end of the race to give teams chance to review footage and to defend their drivers.

If a serious event happens or if the conditions become too poor to race, the Race Director is able to stop the race.

Medical Provisions

Medical support during Formula 1 races has changed dramatically over the last 20 years and is now one of the highest priorities at a race weekend.

Motorsport injuries can be incredibly severe. Speedy medical help is therefore vital to saving lives as every second counts. This means that the Formula 1 now has tiers of medical staff on hand. Paramedics and doctors will be based at various points around the circuit. They will provide initial first aid to drivers and marshals. There will also be a few specialist medical teams who are based in high speed cars who can be ferried to accidents if they are required. There will also be a medical helicopter on stand by in case anyone needs to be airlifted to hospital. These teams will also carry specialist equipment to cut free the drivers from their cars if required. The FIA’s chief medical delegate (at time of writing, Doctor Gary Hartstein) will be present at every race in his Medical Chase Car and he will be driven to the scene of any major accident on the track.

On top of all this, every circuit has it’s own full-equipped medical centre which contains resuscitation equipment as well as an operating theatre. Local hospitals will also be on stand-by so that they are on alert in case a serious accident does occur. All medical staff will carry their own radios and they will keep in contact with each other and race control.

F1 in Schools

The mission: “To help change perceptions of engineering, science and technology by creating a fun and exciting learning environment for young people to develop an informed view about careers in engineering, science, marketing and technology.”

What is ‘F1 in Schools’?

‘F1 in schools’ is a competition for teams of three to six school children to design and manufacture miniature CO2 powered racing cars. Pupils will then meet at regional, national and international levels to race their cars.

So what’s involved?

Pupils are expected to manage the whole project from scratch, construct a Business Plan, secure sponsorship, as well as design and build the cars themselves. CAD software (computer aided design) and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) are used in the design process, the same used by Formula 1 designers, and the cars are manufactured on a CNC machine. For schools without this equipment, there are manufacturing centres around the country where the students can watch the car being made via video conferencing. All teams must submit documentation supporting their cars, including 3D rendering of the final concept and orthographic projections of the car.

Eventually, the miniature race cars will be timed over a 20 metre course. The current record for such a car is 1.1 seconds – an average speed of 18.18 m/s! Teams will initially compete regionally, with the winners going through to national, before international finals.

Prizes are not only awarded for the overall winner, prizes are also awarded to the winners by age group, fastest car, the best engineered car, and best team sponsorship and marketing.

Is it an officially backed project?

‘Formula 1 in Schools’ was set up in 2000. With fewer engineering graduates than ever before, the scheme was launched to encourage budding F1 designers and mechanics to follow such curriculum. Since its inauguration, over two million school children have taken part, from over twenty countries.

‘Formula One in Schools’ is supported by aficionados from the sport itself. Bernie Ecclestone has officially endorsed the scheme and ITV’s commentator James Allen is patron, other such names including Ross Brawn (formerly of Ferrari), Sam Michaels (Williams) and Mike Gascoyne (formerly Toyota’s head of engineering) have actively supported the scheme.

Why it is a good initiative?

It allows young minds a unique chance to do something that is not traditionally available to them, whilst promoting the sport. It provides students a chance to promote their own technological skills, as well as inspire their creative and innovative traits, potentially launching their journey into Formula One.

The scheme is open to both boys and girls, with female students now making up 40% of all entrants, a proportion unmatched in modern day F1.

For more information, the Official ‘F1 in Schools’ website can be found here: https://www.f1inschools.com/

The life of an F1 mechanic

What could be more glamourous than having a job where you get to fly around the World with all expenses paid, get to work with cutting edge technology, and produce some of the latest and greatest technological innovations? The best drivers, brains and marketing gurus are all drawn to the Formula 1 world, often gaining huge publicity and credit. And then there are the mechanics.

Mechanics as a rule don’t come into Formula 1 looking for their fame and fortune – they often work incredibly long hours with little recognition. Countries are often seen from inside the airport, the hotels and the transportation – nothing glamourous about that! However all mechanics have the passion and enthusiasm for some of the World’s greatest cars and that’s where the motivation lies.

Many of us would love to work with such objects of beauty. But how do you become a Formula 1 mechanic? There is no one path – as with most things, it’s a case of working hard in the right subjects, and being in the right place at the right time.

Most mechanics speak English, and English is the most common communication medium in teams, so a good grasp of English is essential. Natuarally, technical know-how is also important, so taking some sort of technical course and then gaining some hands-on experience in the field will help. Amateur rallying, helping out at go-kart tracks or entering your car into a junior race series are some of the options to consider. It’s not just about being the top rung of the ladder – a good garage mechanic will also probably be a good race mechanic as the basic principles between road cars and F1 cars are virtually the same.

Races can be won or lost by the mechanics – they can change an engine within half an hour if they spot something is wrong. Mechanics will spend a lot of time checking and examining the engine to ensure everything is perfect. A nightmare scenario would be having a breakdwon that could have been prevented with a little more care or attention.

Mechanics are normally in their 30s – they still have the drive and passion, but also the experience and technical know-how. There are older mechanics but they tend to a rarer breed – being an F1 mechanic isn’t just a job – it’s a way of life, and it tends to play havoc with family life. There will come a time when your family will outweight your racing passion and this is when mechanics will retire from the greatest circus on Earth.

The Head and Neck System – HANS

The Head and Neck System, HANS for short, is a safety device which became mandatory for the drivers in 2003. The purpose of HANS is to reduce the loads on the driver’s head and neck caused by massive deceleration during an accident. This helps reduce the risk of the driver suffering neck and skull fractures – these are the biggest causes of death in motorsport accidents.

HANS was invented in the mid 1980s by Dr. Robert Hubbard, a professor of biomechanical engineering at Michigan State University. Hubbard and his brother-in-law Jim Downing realised that many racing injuries were due to a lack of head restraint.

When a car makes contact with a wall, it will stop very suddenly. However the laws of physics mean that the head and body will continue to travel towards the wall until they are stopped by their safety restraints. Without head and neck restraints, the head continues forward and hyperextends. The bottom of the rear of the skill can crack from the stress and in doing so, destroy nerve cells that control life functions, cut arteries and cause blood loss.

The HANS device is a semi-hard collar made of carbon fibre and kevlar which weights about 1 pound. It is held onto the upper body by a harness which is worn by the driver. Three flexible tethers on the helmet are connected to the collar. The tethers are loose enough to allow for free movement of the head in ordinary circumstances.

In a crash, the energy absorbed by the neck and skull will be reduced significantly and the force is more directed towards the forehead, which is much better suited to taking the force. Figures suggest that the HANS can reduce head movement in a crash by up to 44%, reduce the force applied to the neck by up to 86% and the acceleration applied to the head by up to 68%.

Pit stops

Pit stops are incredible feats of choreography and timing and is a real team effort. A pit stop can mean the difference between winning and losing a race. Pit stops are a crucial part of Formula 1 racing strategy.

When a driver comes into the pit lane, a lollipop man will be standing by his pit garage, directing the driver in. The driver will bring the car to a stop in a precise lcoation. If a tyre change is needed, the car will be jacked up at the front and rear. Three mechanics are assigned to each wheel – one to remove and refit the central nut with a high speed airgun, one to remove the old wheel and one to fit the new wheel. Two mechanics are needed for the fuelling rig. Other mechanics may also be present to make minor changes to the car, for example altering the angles of the front and rear wings or increasing/decreasing downforce levels. Other tasks such as changing nose cones require more time even though they are designed for quick replacement, and this will extend the time needed for the pit stop.

You will also often see mechanics removing rubbish and debris from the car intakes to make sure that the radiator performs to maximum efficiency. There will also be one mechanic standing by the rear of the car with an engine-starter in case the driver stalls the engine.

After each mechanic has completed their respective jobs, they will raise their hand. The lollipop man will wait until all his mechanics hands are raised and then release the car back into the pit lane. It it the lollipop man’s job to make sure that there are no other cars passing the pit lane before he releases his driver.

Routine pit stops take around 7 seconds. Longer pit stops are usually due to more fuel being put into the car. A team will practise pit stops hundreds of times to ensure that they are performing perfectly on the day to give their car the best chance of winning.

Can an ex-F1 driver ever be a successful F1 team owner?

With rumours flying that Michael Schumacher may be tempted back into Formula 1 as a team owner, and with Gerhard Berger making a return to the sport as the Scuderi Toro Rosso’s co-owner, it raises the question whether a successful Formula 1 driver can also make a successful Formula 1 team owner.

If we take a look at Formula 1’s history, the answer has to be ‘no’. There have been minor successes here and there, but noone has ever come even close to matching their success as a driver – Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and Alain Prost to name a few. Noone can deny that they were at the top of the sport during their hayday, but running a team seems to require a different skillset to being a successful driver. In fact, of the top teams, none of the owners have been successful race drivers.

We are at a time in Formula 1 where there are no true independents – all teams are either owned by or have close relationships with motor manufacturers. These manufacturers hold the money and have a massive impact in the way a team is run. There are also immense sponsorship deals to negotiate and work to keep the FIA pacified. Politics are now rife, and ever more complex rules are being introduced.

We’ve seen film stars creating successul teams in the USA, so why not the same in Formula 1? It’s good to see Berger back in F1, but I don’t think he has what it takes to make it to the top. Whereas Schumacher – if there’s one race driver who could take a team to the top, it’s him. But I won’t be betting my house on it any time soon!