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JA on F1 readers go behind the scenes of Formula 1's world champion team

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JA on F1 readers go behind the scenes of Formula 1's world champion team
Oct 16, 2015, 5:14 PM

Last Sunday Mercedes clinched the F1 Constructors' world championship for the second time.

Last Sunday Mercedes clinched the F1 Constructors' world championship for the second time.

And today we helped the fans get closer to the sport as eight lucky JA on F1 readers got to take a peek behind the scenes of the Mercedes factory, in Brackley, Northamptonshire, courtesy of our partner Tata Communications, via it's F1 Connectivity Innovation prize.

Mercedes Factory Tour

The 60,000m2 Brackley campus has 800 Mercedes employees on-site designing and assembling its latest F1 machines. There are two wind tunnels in operation, although only one is used to produce the race cars, and three driving simulators of varying degrees of realism.

Although both of the W06 Hybrid cars that Hamilton and Rosberg are driving in 2015 are already in Austin in preparation for the upcoming US Grand Prix, there was still work going on in the race bays as mechanics stripped and prepared Michael Schumacher’s 2012 W03, the last F1 car the seven-times champion ever drove.

The Non Destructive Testing (NDT) room is used to check every metal component for imperfections before each race. Aluminium and titanium parts are dyed and place under UV lights to show up minute cracks, while steel parts are assessed using magnetic testing.

Both of Mercedes’ race cars, plus one spare, can be totally stripped and checked for damage in just three days. When the cars do not return to Brackley in between races, portable tools are sent out to assess any damage at the circuit.

Whirring away in the background are Mercedes’ ovens, which are used to mould and create carbon fibre components. The machines operate at up to 180°C, with around 1200-1300psi of pressure in each one.

Mercedes Factory Tour P1

The time required for the components to cure will depend on the specific type of carbon fibre used and also the intended use of that component, ranging between two hours and two days.

In recent years, 3D printing has become much more prevalent in F1 and Mercedes is now capable of printing almost an entire car, as it is currently doing for 2016, to make sure everything will fit correctly before going into production.

The squad’s R&D simulator works to support the race team during Grand Prix weekends, as a rig is placed on seven hydraulic actuators that can replicate conditions from any racetrack the team has visited in the past.

Data from simulations is sent across the globe using Tata’s subsea fibre optic cabling to provide real-time assistance for the team at the circuit.

At the rear of the factory, bespoke tooling machines that churn out 18,000 metal components every year dominate the team’s vast machine shop. A typical lead-time for Mercedes is 20 days from concept design to a part being fitted to the car.

Above the factory floor in the Race Support Room, a team of engineers will remotely support the race team for every Grand Prix. In an adjacent office, Mercedes’ design team is working on the plans for the team’s 2016 challenger and another smaller team is already planning its 2017 car.

At the end of the tour is the finished product: Hamilton’s race-winning car from the 2014 Abu Dhabi finale, with the team’s trophy haul proudly displayed in the main reception.

Mercedes Factory Tour Lewis Hamilton

Two of the competition winners explained how the tour of the Brackley factory had enhanced their understanding of how an F1 team is run.

Christopher Stewart said: “I really enjoyed today it was very insightful. One thing I took away is that everything on the car is meant to be.

Mercedes Factory Tour

“I looked at one of the brake ducts and there was this wee dimple, almost like a bubble, and I thought it looked like an imperfection, but there are no imperfections – someone meant that to be there for a specific reason.

“You know the sport is highly engineered, but to such an nth degree isn’t really what you pick up via TV or the media.”

Simon Todd said: “The tour was fantastic. It was really good to hear all the technical information and behind-the-scenes knowledge from the Mercedes guys.

Mercedes Factory Tour

“The scope of the factory really stood out to me. I knew it was going to be technical but the amount of testing that goes on is unbelievable.

“The automation is really impressive, just to see how much goes into the actual construction of all the components.”

Mercedes Factory Tour

The competition was organised to celebrate the conclusion of the 2015 F1 Connectivity Prize, a three-way initiative organised by Formula One Management, Tata Communications and AMG Mercedes F1.
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Series Formula 1
Drivers Lewis Hamilton Shop Now
Teams McLaren Shop Now
Tags innovation