A (fake) Team Principal writes

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Chinese Grand Prix - Race Day - Shanghai, China

Dear Harry,

Well, I’m back after the first four ‘flyaway’ races of the season. I still don’t know why they call them that, as it seems to me that with the exception of Silverstone we’ll be flying to all of the races. Anyway, I’m back and it has been brilliant.

I reckon I’ve got this team principal thing down pat now. After the first couple of races I’d completely nailed the sitting on the pit wall and staring intently at the screens thing – even if it was only old re-runs of Scooby Doo on my screens because I got bored watching the weather forecast, which just went on forever. I mean, zzzzzzzz…

Then there are the grand pronouncements that mean nothing. One of the other team principals told me that the media are all a bit thick and will swallow anything – including all the food in your motorhome – so you can tell them anything and they’ll trot it out as if it’s gospel.

This sounded amazing, if fairly unbelievable, but I had to give it a go. I tried to think of the daftest, most nonsensical thing I could possibly come out with, something no one would possibly believe, something so stupendously silly that it would make me sound like the greatest fantasist since Walter Mitty or that chap who ran Caterham for a while. Eventually I hit on a brilliant load of tosh and duly trotted it out in Bahrain at the little press briefing I give on a Saturday.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Bahrain Grand Prix - Preparation Day - Sakhir, Bahrain

We’d had a bit of a boost in qualifying and had managed to get within five seconds of the pole position time. According to the chief mechanic this was down to our American driver – the one whose father owns all those car dealerships – finally working out that the car has eight gears, but I thought I’d try a different tack and see if anyone called me on it.

“Yes,” I drawled with as much confidence as I could muster, “we’ve taken a major step forward over the past few weeks with the updates we’ve brought. I remember after the Australian Grand Prix sitting down with our engine partner and our chief designer [honestly I couldn’t remember their names] and saying ‘what can we do to move the weight distribution forward a bit, because our Russian driver Ivan likes a car like this’ and they both agreed. I drew a quick sketch on a napkin and they went away and came up with a solution, which has served us well here in Bahrain.”

Well, blow me down if that didn’t lead to a whole lot of sage nods around the table and a fair bit of scribbling in notebooks. I did catch one of the journalists drawing male genitalia in the notebook of a colleague but by and large they bought it!

This is ace, I thought. Now I didn’t want to push my luck or anything but one of the other hacks then asked me how far I thought this update could take us.

I paused, did a bit of chin-stroking and looked a bit pensive and then said: “It’s difficult to say because all the other teams are constantly coming with upgrades as well and it’s a hugely competitive environment.

“It’s up to us to just keep pushing. Pushing in the right direction, whilst simultaneously pulling out all the stops. So pushing and pulling if you like, but all together, at the same time and in the right direction, which would be towards Monaco I suppose, or perhaps Montreal. Then we’ll see where we are, which should be Monaco or Montreal, and we’ll see whether we are in the mix, which I think we should be, though we have a lot of hard work to do between now and then to get that mix right. There are no easy games in this league but we’ll take it one race at a time and just try to do our best.”

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Bahrain Grand Prix - Race Day - Sakhir, Bahrain

Well, that was the cue for more sage nodding and a bit more scribbling and we were done. I looked over at Camilla who winked at me and made a sort of shaking gesture with her hand. I don’t know what that meant but I’m guessing it had something to do with the media types being a bit silly.

Of course, as soon as the story was published I came in for a bit of gentle ribbing in the garage from the engineers and mechanics who asked me for some help with the front wing. Keen to muck in I asked what I could do. The chief mechanic said we needed to change the angle of the dangle on the endplate and that in order to do that effectively I should call the factory and ask them to send over a long weight pronto.

In the end I spent three hours on hold before Camilla found me, hung up and told me to stop being so dense.

Anyway, that’s the lot for now, the ‘flyaways’ are done and next week I’ll be flying away to sunny Spain for the start of the European season.

I reckon I can definitely spin another good update story there and Camilla has told me I’ve got to use phrases like ‘bellwether circuit’, ‘reference track’ and ‘if a car goes well here it will be good anywhere’. I’m also practicing my chatting-knowledgeably-with-the-technical-director-on-the-grid look and reckon that will be ready for a TV debut in Barcelona. Can’t wait!

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Spanish Grand Prix - Race Day - Barcelona, Spain

Click here for a look at the radical Honda power unit design

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