BOLLY GOOD SHOW
Timo and Chief Engineer Dave Greenwood give us the lowdown on their preparations and expectations for the first Indian Grand Prix
Timo is looking forward to racing in India for the first time as Marussia Virgin Racing head into the unknown.
The first few laps of the opening practice session on the Buddh International Circuit will be a vital learning curve for our drivers. But for Timo his education will start even before he turns a wheel in anger on the near 3.2 mile long circuit. That will come when Timo and his race engineers walk the brand spanking new track and get a first taste of what to expect from its 16 corner lay out.
Timo walks the track the day before practice starts even if it's a circuit he's done thousands of laps around like Barcelona where so much pre-season testing takes place.He is checking if the kerbs have been changed or if the track is bumpier than he remembered, which can happen in places like Monaco and Singapore which are used by road traffic throughout the year. But for a new circuit like India that walk with his engineers is crucial to give him an early understanding before he races into the corner at 200mph in his MVR-02.
"I will have a look at the track when I first arrive as it is important," Timo explains. "I'll slowly walk around and get a mental picture of where the brake points are, where the 100 metre indicator board is and stuff like that. "You don't have to stand in front of the kerb for 10 minutes and think about it. You just need to know how the car feels over it. That all comes from experience.
"If I see a corner I know what I have to do and what certain speed it has and what gear I normally should be in. "But I'll also be looking for any bumps which shouldn't be there as it's a new track."
Timo reckons he will be quickly up to speed even though he knows very little about F1's newest venue. In fact, he admits: "Every new track is a little bit of an adventure for the whole team so we will see how it goes.
"The team can do some simulation work, and the new F1 racing games are quite good to give some knowledge. You get a bit of an impression at least if you have to turn right or left coming out of the pits and which corner comes up when.
"Last year in Korea it only took me three laps to learn. But to get those last few tenths you want to squeeze out of your time then you find that normally after 10 to 15 laps maybe." For the team's race engineers, though, the planning for the Indian Grand Prix started months ago.
The most important bit of information needed was the racing line - the quickest way to drive the track. From that, the engineers can start working on computer race simulations, finding out what downforce levels to use or what the best pit-stop strategy will be.
Marussia Virgin Racing's Chief Engineer Dave Greenwood explains:
"In terms of actual data, India has not been the easiest place to get data for. "We were able to get a CAD drawing for the whole of the track and based on that we generated quite a crude racing line in order to put that into our simulation package. That bit of data is crucial as without a racing line we cannot start to run any simulations, look at downforce levels and all the other parameters on the car.
"We need to know how much the weight affect is, how much the power affect is to choose where we pick in the engine cycles. It came out that India is right up there at the top of sensitivity to power, so we will be fitting two brand new race engines for Timo and Jérôme. But up until about two months ago we didn't have a clue how it would sit into that position.
"At other races we have all the data from previous years, say relating to tyres and what the performance difference was on both compounds and what the degradation was. So even before you get to the grand prix you have a whole army of information to work from.
"With India we have none of that - and, of course, we have switched from Bridgestone to Pirelli tyres this year. But we have been gathering information. We needed to give the drivers as much information as we can before we go and where the track sits in relation to other circuits.
"The main bulk of that goes into the pre-event report - which is a little reference bible for all the engineers with all the data for the simulation. For all the planning, though, that first feel of the circuit is so important.
Dave adds: "There is nothing better than being there and walking around it and seeing the small details of how the kerbs are. That is difficult when you haven't been there. But we did send someone out to take pictures for us so we have some idea.
"I think it is going to be an interesting track. Looking at a map you can't get an idea, but we've been told the elevation changes are bigger than you think, particularly up to turn three, which is almost a blind corner.
"We have arrived a little bit earlier than normal to have an extra day to have a look at these things. But we really need that first Friday practice to be dry. Once you've done those first few laps that pre-race information very quickly filters down to the lower level info and the more recent data is more relevant." Marussia Virgin Racing's first visit to India also gives the team the chance to taste new horizons off the track. For Dave and his engineers that could be a traditional Indian curry.
For Timo, though, curry will be off the menu as will his favourite dish Currywurst - hot, sliced German sausage smothered in curry flavoured ketchup. As will any thoughts of sightseeing.
Timo adds: "Indian curry is not my favourite - and I don't think they do the Currywurst like we have in Germany. But I normally eat the same food at every race anyway, mainly pasta. "And I don't often walk around somewhere away from the track. I don't have my head free for stuff like this. "When I am at the track or between races I just like to focus on my job."
Team Manager Dave O'Neill and Race Team PA Laura Booth have been working hard for months getting the team's equipment and people organised for the race in New Delhi
At Marussia Virgin Racing we're ready for some shock and awe at the Indian Grand Prix.
The awe will come from the capital city's mix of medieval mayhem, Imperial splendour and the hustle-and-bustle of a thriving modern metropolis. But the surprise factor will surely be discovering how 12.75 million people share the roads with budding racing drivers, rickety rickshaws - and, a fair few cows! Our Race Team PA Laura Booth has at least known what to expect after visiting Delhi last year to begin the planning for the race.
"When you see it for the first time it's a real eye-opener," Laura explains. "There are rickshaws on the road, cars, buses, animals - it is chaos, but great to experience. "Up until last November I had never been so didn't know what to expect. But India has been my most testing race to organise the travel arrangements for.
"It's all new. We can't drive there so we have had to arrange all the transfers and everybody has flown in at different times.We have had four or five transfers each day from airport and then all the transfers to the track as everybody goes in at different times.
As Team Manager Dave O'Neill explained: "I was in India for a few weeks five years ago, so I am familiar with the country. Our 60+ team needs to run like a well-oiled machine so we need to be prepared for every eventuality."
For all at Marussia Virgin Racing the trip to India comes just a few days after everyone returned back home from two weeks - or more - on the road in Korea and Japan. And when they get back from India they'll only have a few days to recover before going back out to Abu Dhabi. So it's important that the engineers and mechanics get a chance to keep in touch with loved ones back home in Britain.
Dave explains: "We are all there to work and for the guys the most important thing is always what goes on at the circuit. When we're there, we all want to do the best job we possibly can. "But we want the guys to feel comfortable as much as we can. We try and make the environment as much of a 'home from home' as possible.
"A lot of them share rooms, so they have to choose a good 'roomie' for the year. You definitely want someone you get on with. A lot of them have young children, so we have a telephone box which we set up at the back of the garage. There's a Skype line and normal land-lines, which are all extensions from the factory, so it's like ringing a British number. Communication is the key to keeping everyone happy.
"My job as Team Manager is a bit like organising a travelling army. We do recces from the hotel to the circuit to see how long it will take in rush hour. We try and get the timings as close as possible as more time in bed for the guys is good for them.
"A lot of it is discipline. If you get 10 people in a van and one guy is always late in the morning, if you add that up, 15 minutes every day, that's four or five days a year. That side of our life has to be pretty regimented and it's even more important for a race like this one, where it's a real voyage into the unknown."