Atlas F1

Rory's Ramblings

An Occasional Column from the Antipodes by Rory Gordon, Australia

Leaving Home.

In the previous Ramble, I talked about the great expectations that exist in life and in F1.

As I was writing it, I had the thought that the people from whom we fans expect the least are the new teams.

And that started me thinking, for a little while, about the trials and tribulations of a new team coming into F1 for the first time. At that point, I dropped off to sleep and all those good thoughts were gone by the time I woke up - which is fairly typical, unfortunately.

But a recent event jogged my brain, and the thought about new teams popped back into my head again. For some reason, I was thinking about my little baby girl - you know, my (now) 13 year old daughter who was in danger of being taller than me and who has to suffer through "The Reading Of The School Reports".

For some reason, I was thinking about her leaving home, and thinking about how I was dreading the day, and looking forward to it at the same time.

Do you remember the day you left home (presuming that you have actually left home)? I don't really. What I do remember is that living away from home was nowhere near as easy as I had been told it was going to be, and the picture that had been painted for me was pretty bleak.

Oh, I knew all about the cooking, the cleaning, the house-keeping, the electricity, the rent, the phone, and all those sorts of things. What got me were the little things: toilet paper, light bulbs, hair shampoo and conditioner, disinfectant, soap, electrical extension cords, pain-killers, drying-up cloths, screwdrivers, spanners, and the many other things that I still forget until they run out.

It really is quite fantastic just what it does take to keep a household functioning. The main problem with it all is that most of us don't think about these things until they're not there and that usually only happens when you need it NOW.

And that is quite apart from the everyday things that I never seem to have enough of around the house, like pens, paper, blank computer disks, printer paper, cigarettes, reference books (none of the books I ever need NOW are ever within eye-shot) and so on.

The list of things seems endless.

Now, just think of what you would pack into the trucks as you head off for your team's first Formula One Grand Prix. Many of your crew will probably have been on another team, so they all could have some say about what goes into the truck. There's the obvious things like: some cars, engines, gearboxes, gear clusters, wheels, tyres, toolkits, front wings, air bottles, re-fuelling rigs, wheel guns, air hoses, computers, printers, printer ink cartridges, paper, press release paper, and...

And then there's the question of how much of each you take with you. Obviously, there are toolkits, and there are toolkits. There's the sort of toolkit that floats around in the boot (trunk) of my car, and there's the sort of toolkit that an F1 team takes on the road with them. I have one spanner that has to fulfil a multitude of roles, and does them all rather badly. In an F1 team, a spanner will do one job, but it will do it to perfection.

Much of this can be taken care of by careful planning, never forgetting the obvious, and some (very) lateral thinking.

Inevitably, something, or many things, will be forgotten or just not thought of, especially at the first race. As the season winds on, you learn just what you'll need to take and what you can leave behind, given that you can't take everything.

And, of course, the first time you decide to leave the widget behind, you actually need it. Inevitable, really.

I remember talking to David Brabham in the Simtek garage after the 1994 Australian GP, the final GP of Simtek's debut year. Looking back over the year, Brabham talked about the great expectations the team had in their pre-season designing, building and testing. They thought they were going really quite well ... for a first-year team.

And then they got out onto the track for the first session at Sao Paulo. `And we realised just how out to lunch we were,' said Brabham. It wasn't just the design of the car, and major things like that. There were all the "little things" that they just hadn't even thought of. All the little things that you and I also wouldn't even think about.

It's all part of "growing up", the "learning curve". When we leave home for the first time, we have great expectations of what our life is going to be like from then on. And when that F1 team leaves their base for the first time, they too have great expectations of what lies ahead.

Unlike us, that team probably realises that they aren't going to set the world on fire at first, but there's always that flame of hope burning inside them that tells them they may just set the world on fire.

Simtek came into F1 with little, if any, experience as a team of going motor racing. Pacific had substantially more experience, and they no longer grace the F1 paddock.

So, what about the Stewart team? Jackie Stewart seems to be hoping for a few points in 1997. Personally, I think that his hopes may be dashed. I hope I'm wrong, but I think that Stewart will find F1 a very different proposition to F3000. For the first couple of years, it's going to be like moving from one school to another, as they learn to dump the idiosyncrasies of one series for the idiosyncrasies of another.

And, on top of having a new team, with new drivers, a new chassis, a new engine and new tyres, don't you think that's more than enough?

But that's just me.

Rory Gordon
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