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Pre-season assembly. A race car, waiting to receive its gearbox and transmission, is prepared in the garage prior to the start of track activity at Melbourne. The engine has been mated to the chassis and is being plumbed into the radiators (hidden behind green protective covers). Enthusiastic spectators are already in the grandstand opposite, too far away to appreciate the intricate work as a myriad of parts are put together with precision.

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The basic necessities. A torque wrench and a hammer are essentials among the tools of the trade as a mechanic works though his personal job list.

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Pulling their weight. Drivers are such an integral part of the car that their personal weight is included in the overall permitted 640 kilograms; if the car falls below that minimum, it will be excluded. Continual checking of a driver’s weight throughout the weekend is vital for this reason and also for the monitoring of his hydration levels. In a hot race, a driver can lose up to three kilograms in fluid, causing a potential drop in performance.

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Overalls to go. Hugo Boss celebrated a 30-year commercial partnership with McLaren by introducing a novel campaign involving race fans worldwide. ‘Dress Me for the Finale’ invited participants to design race overalls for countries hosting a Grand Prix, each having a winning design worn by the drivers during Saturday practice and qualifying. The competition produced 9000 designs from 37 different countries. At the end of the 2011 season, fans voted for the best design to be worn by Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button during the final race in Brazil.

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Staying cool, calm and hydrated. Great emphasis is placed on the driver’s well-being during the relentless physical punishment of a race lasting, at some circuits, almost two hours. Formula 1 drivers are among the most highly conditioned athletes in any sport. The physical loadings inside the car consistently reach 3.5 g, peaking at 5g when braking and cornering quickly. Due to the effort needed within such a confined and hot environment, a driver will sweat four to five litres of fluid during a race. On race day a drinks bottle is never far away as drivers take on large amounts of liquid to combat dehydration. Diets are carefully regulated to include the correct amounts of carbohydrate and protein. Button wears a gel-filled cool vest which is removed before finally climbing into the car on the starting grid.

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Steering committee. When the engine is switched off, two critical parameters – water temperature (113 degrees Celsius) and pressure (2.78 bar) – are displayed automatically on the top of the steering wheel, these readings split by the gear selection (0 indicating the car is in neutral). The yellow P button (shrouded to prevent accidental use) above the driver’s right thumb operates the pit lane speed limiter. Green buttons at the top are for scrolling through the menu. Controls such as these, needed when driving flat out, are within easy access at the top; buttons and dials used less regularly are positioned further down the wheel.

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Wearing the car. Cockpits are tailored specifically to keep the dimensions as narrow and small as possible and ensure the driver is held firmly in place. Once the driver has eased himself into a seat moulded precisely to his body, the removable steering wheel is replaced and the driver’s head and shoulders are surrounded by a foam collar designed to absorb energy and impact in an accident. Despite being snugly ensconced in his cockpit (Button is holding a cold-air blower while

in the garage), the driver must be able to evacuate the car in five seconds should the need arise. Cockpit dimensions were slimmed down in the early 1990s when the traditional gearstick (positioned on the driver’s right) made way for a paddle shift mounted behind the steering wheel. Gone, too, is a dashboard with instruments and switches, the driver operating almost everything by controls on the steering wheel, the necessary readings displayed at the top of the wheel.

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Night shift. Formula 1 moved into new territory in every sense in 2008 when Singapore hosted its first Grand Prix and ran the race at night. It makes spectacular viewing, both on television and at the venue itself as F1 cars race through the streets, power past iconic buildings, cross a 100-year-old iron bridge and sweep past a purpose-built pit and paddock complex on the waterfront. Powerful overhead lights map out the fast and difficult 3.1-mile track as it carves its way through the darkness. Lewis Hamilton won for McLaren in 2009, Jenson Button finished a close second in 2011 in an event that has quickly earned its place among the most popular and spectacular venues on the F1 calendar.

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JOURNEY

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PREPARATION

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DARREN HEATH

MAURICE HAMILTON

Darren Heath is a multi award winning photographer based in London England, specialising in Formula One and the automotive industry.

Maurice Hamilton was the Observer’s motor racing correspondent between 1990-2010. A published author, he can be heard on BBC Radio Five Live as their F1 summariser.

© for the photographs Darren Heath © for the text by Maurice Hamilton © for design and layout by Prestel Verlag, Munich • London • New York 2012

Art of Racing  

McLaren book

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