RORY'S RAMBLINGS - An Occasional Column from the Antipodes

Rory's Ramblings
Function, Performance and a Toilet From Hell
No. 15, 9 April, 1996
by Rory Gordon

During the off-season, I had the chance to visit some areas of Australia that I had never been to before. This is not too major event in itself, as there are many areas of Australia that I haven't been to yet.

Anyway, having been driving through some very sparse country-side and having consumed large quantities of a certain popular non-alcoholic drink, I had got to the stage where I needed to use some "facilities" very soon. Luckily, there was a town a little down the road and I was able to hang on until then. It's not that I mind standing at the side of the road, doing what I have to do, but I prefer not to do so when the air temperature is nudging 40-degrees Centigrade.

Arriving at the town, by now I was ready to burst, we pulled into one of those places that sell fuel for cars. I came screaming out of the car and went flying for the facilities and in I went through the door. That was two mistakes in the space of only a few seconds.

First of all, we had had the air-conditioning going at full cold in the car, so it was at least fairly frigid. The blast of hot air that hit me as I got out of the car almost knocked me to the ground, literally. Secondly, this toilet was a masterpiece of bad thought and even worse design.

Straight ahead were the sit-down facilities. Well, a single one, at least. And just inside the door, a little - but only a very little - off to the left, were the stand-up facilities. So close to the door were the stand-ups that I almost managed to slice off a sizeable proportion of the buttocks of the guy that was using them at the time. To get to the post-function basin to wash your hands, you had to be a contortionist. Oh, and on top of everything else, the place stank. This had to be the toilet from Hell.

What on earth is he rambling on about now? What on earth does this have to do with F1? Did he completely lose his marbles over the off-season, due to F1 withdrawal?

No, there is a connection with F1 here, because it was at about this time of the year that the teams started to roll out their new cars.

These are full-tilt media events. Remember the hoop-la at the 1995 McLaren roll-out? There was Ron Dennis. There was Nigel Mansell. There was the 1995 McLaren. And there was the mid-wing. Then there was the 1994 Williams roll-out, where Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill drove around a circuit - in beautiful formation and at ultra-slow speeds - for the benefit of the bus-load of camera-people who were just ahead of them.

Of course, these events are designed to create as much positive publicity for the team as possible ... and for the sponsors. There are press releases about the co-operation between the team and its partners (sponsors). And there are press releases about the fantastic results the team is going to get in the forthcoming season with this brand-new-from-the-bottom-up-even-though-it-looks- exactly-the-same-as-last-year's-car car. And there are other press releases which tell you what parts go into the construction of the car, the suspension, the engine and all that.

At the roll-out, the cars usually look as though they are functional beasts, but when all is said and done, the publicity machine has to stop and the real work has to begin. The designer hopes he has done the best job possible, given the money and time that is made available. The team can go out to the test track as much as they like, but it isn't until the first session of the first race of the season that they all get to find out just how good or bad they are.

Of course, if their cars top the time sheets for every session, and if they win the race by a couple of laps, then we can assume that the team has done its job pretty well. There will some people who will question the legality of just about anything connected to the car and the team, but, assuming all the checks clear the cars, then we can also assume that here is a car that is performing its function to perfection.

Function. That's what it's all about. Function is a product of design. Pour enough time, money, effort, experience, knowledge and thought into design, and you might end up with a device that performs its function well. But there is more to it than that.

It is not only the overall result that counts, but also how each part within the device performs its function. I started off this Ramble by talking about the toilet from Hell. Obviously, this was a place that was very much an after-thought in the overall design and, because of that, I felt that the whole place failed to perform its function.

By and large, F1 cars perform their function well, and certainly better than an F3000 car, for example. Some perform their function better than others, and that is partly how we get winners and losers. And in many cases, the overall result comes about because some part of the car was not the best and is not performing its function as it should be performed.

But in F1, as in many things (like the toilet from Hell for example), there are many items - among them; each part of the car, the driver, the mechanics, the support back at base - that go into making the overall result. And, the overall result may well include a greater or lesser degree of failure, unless each of them performs their function perfectly.

But that's just me.

Rory Gordon
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