On the road with the MCL32

Hungarian Grand Prix 2017

A Formula 1 car is only really built up and ready to race during grand prix weekends. At all other times, it’s usually in a box of bits as it’s transported from circuit to circuit, repaired, serviced and rebuilt.

We wanted to lift the lid on just what happens to one of our cars between the chequered flag falling at the British Grand Prix and FP1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix...

Week one

Sunday 16th July

The cars take the British Grand Pix chequer and end up in parc ferme. After the race, the scrutineers measure and check every car for legality. Once they’re finished, our mechanics return them to the garage and immediately begin to strip them down.

F1 cars are modular – they bolt together like a giant LEGO set – so they can be easily assembled and dissembled. In the garage, the mechanics remove the floor, the nosebox, and the rear wing, before setting to work removing the gearbox and the power unit, the real meat of the job.

The gearbox returns to the MTC where it is stripped down and rebuilt. The power units return to Honda – either to its European operations centre in Milton Keynes, or its technical headquarters in Sakura, Japan.

Monday 17th July

The MCL32 chassis and its components arrive back at the MTC in a number of vans, trucks and transporters. Once the tubs are back, they can be completely stripped down in the race bays, where five mechanics per car are able to more comprehensively rebuild the cars.

Tuesday 18th to Friday 21st July

Between races, the team removes and checks parts that have a strict usage life. Components such as the wiring harness, fuel-cell, wishbones and uprights need to be regularly serviced – the carbon parts are checked for cracks and fatigue.

Our mechanics then rebuild the tub with new and freshly serviced components. They also pack up all remaining freight into boxes and cases and load the transporters.

Week two

Monday 24th July

On Monday morning, the transporters begin their 1,139-mile journey to the Hungaroring. At the same time, vans are also packed with late-arriving or new components – they can make the journey more easily than the big HGVs. Super-late arrivals will also go via what’s termed ‘hand luggage’ – carefully packed into suitcases and sent by plane with team members.

Wednesday 26th July

Once the cars arrive at the track, they are pieced back together. The main aim for the Wednesday is to bolt the chassis, power unit and gearbox together.

Thursday 27th July

The grand prix weekend really ramps up as the media and engineers arrive at the track. By this time, the car will be almost complete – the mechanics will fit the floor, suspension and bodywork with the aim of firing the car up for the first time of the weekend.

Once the car is built up, it can be scrutineered and declared legal for the event.

Friday 28th July

On Friday, the mechanics are usually at the circuit at least two hours before the first session kicks off. With a 1030am start, they’re usually in the paddock having breakfast by 0800am. The last piece of bodywork is fastened down just minutes before the session starts – and they’ll spend the rest of the weekend being built and rebuilt until after the race, when the whole cycle will start all over again…