The Renault F1 Team takes you behind the scenes of a little-known department, where individual expertise plays a major role. Take some flat sheets of metal, and some tubes. Add technicians. And what do you get? If it's in the Enstone Fabrication...
The Renault F1 Team takes you behind the scenes of a little-known department, where individual expertise plays a major role.
Take some flat sheets of metal, and some tubes. Add technicians. And what do you get? If it's in the Enstone Fabrication Shop, the answer is something extraordinary. Alan Bond manages the 8-man strong department. "There's enough work to keep us busy!" he jokes as he shows a workshop where specialists work on welding so fine, it could be a watchmaker.
The department's work can be summarised in relatively few words: every metal component for the car, that needs welding, is produced at the factory. "The radiators, oil tanks, and exhausts are produced completely in-house at Enstone," explains Alan. The work involves absolute precision. And productivity: in 2005, the shop turned out 65 sets of exhausts for the R25. And each one of them involved 100 man hours in its production!
"Of course, we use computer based tools and stereo-lithography in some areas, but this is one of the rare sectors of modern F1 where traditional craftsmanship counts," explains Alan, who arrived at Enstone in 1990. "Other departments are able to work from moulds. It's different for us: we start with a metal tube, and make it into a part." The result is a work of art -- a finished set of exhausts is a breathtaking creation.
In Alan's eyes, the main quality required for the job is not technical mastery. "No, priority number one is enthusiasm," he explains. "You need to give the best of your ability, and be determined to produce the best possible component. Working independently, the technicians need to aim for perfection, to look at a finished part and ask themselves how it could have been made even better."
The department's output isn't simply limited to testing or races. The Research and Development sector is also among Alan's 'customers'. Equally, the wind tunnel model shop requires custom components. "You need the know how to manage the priorities," says Alan. "We have a plan of attack for each day, but you sometimes need to be able to improvise. The R25 saw a lot of developments, and it was a big challenge to produce everything on time. But we managed it."
The 8 members of the department didn't see the season unfold on the track, but at the factory, on TV. "We would all have loved to be there, but there was work to do here!" concludes Alan. "We followed the action intensely though. Our colleagues explain how the weekend went when they come back, and the drivers came to the factory on several occasions. It's amazing how much motivation you can sometimes get from a handshake and a word of thanks!"