How much of a driver's job is driving?

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Guia
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How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Guia »

For our two thousandth thread then, a look at the skills and disciplines in which the modern grand prix driver must be schooled, the demands on and requirements of his job, and how much - when it comes down to it - is actually about driving an F1 car.

Way back when, Tazio Nuvolari would take an asthmatic Alfa and by sheer force of will outpace the mighty Mercedes and all-conquering Auto Unions. But in today's professionalised industry homogeneity has crept into everything from technology to tracks to tricks of the trade, all of which everyone knows. Driving styles differ to nothing like the extent they could before, racing lines and braking distances varying only slightly between drivers. All too often any advantage is found on the pitwall, developed at a debrief, forged at the factory, refined in Free Practice and applied in the garage before being realised in the race. And should a driver of notoriously prococious gifts be inspired to the extent that on a given day he can outdrive a handful of similarly skilled and highly trained peers, a checklist the length of Bernie's life insurance policy had better be ticked if he's any chance of actually manifesting that brilliance.

Unless, that is, his brilliance extends to the disciplines which determine just how the car behaves, its limitations and its potential, and what can be done to make it quick before our driver even sits behind the wheel.

And it is this in particular which I hope we can look at here: the relationship between the driver's technical proficiency and his results on track, what this entails for the driver, and what it implies for modern F1.
Last edited by Guia on Tue Jul 24, 2012 9:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Covalent
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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Covalent »

"How much of a driver's job is driving?" and "how much - when it comes down to it - is actually about driving an F1 car" are two different questions. The actual driving part is probably less than 1%, whereas working on stuff about driving is much more, since you could count in reading telemetry, discussing updates with engineers etc etc etc.

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Balibari
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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Balibari »

Also depends which team you drive for. If it's McLaren you'll spend longer doing promo stuff than car stuff.

I always thought Kimi was/is a bit hypocritical for being the toughest negotiator over wages and the least enthusiastic when it comes to sponsor commitments. The way I see it you aren't paid millions just to drive the car on Sunday, you're paid millions to keep the sponsors happy.
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rawsushi
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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by rawsushi »

Very much, and very little, and they are both correct.

Very much because it's the most important thing they do. You can't drive like the best in the world, you don't get a seat, period.

Very little because even though driving is the most important part of their job, they are so good at it that they can do that and a 101 other things at the same time, talking to the engineer, managing the engine, tyres, brakes etc, and ordering drinks for themselves.

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Guia
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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Guia »

Covalent wrote:"How much of a driver's job is driving?" and "how much - when it comes down to it - is actually about driving an F1 car" are two different questions.

Hence the distinction. Hence the thread. :?

Covalent wrote:The actual driving part is probably less than 1%, whereas working on stuff about driving is much more, since you could count in reading telemetry, discussing updates with engineers etc etc etc.

Absolutely. And it's this I'm hoping we'll get in to.

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mcdo
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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by mcdo »

Thankfully traction control is gone. Back in those days I felt a driver of any skill level could compete pretty well in a competitive car.

Now all we need are the stickshifts back and we're good to go!
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Blinky McSquinty

Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Blinky McSquinty »

Doing laps alone on a track with just shifting and pressing the pedals is a huge task in itself. But because you aren't alone, you have to have your spidey sense working, and situational awareness, tracking every car you can see, and believe is relatively close. You also have to continually keep an eye out for flags, miss just one and you could be in big trouble.

Inside the cockpit, at each corner you have to adjust the brake bias, differential, and possibly engine mapping. Then there's KERS harvesting, DRS, engine mapping, and other parameters you have to stay on top of. During a race the car constantly changes, it loses fuel and weight, tires degrade, and the track itself evolves. You have to stay on top of it all and continually make changes in the car and your driving style.

The prime interface between the driver and car is the steering wheel, and it's laden with buttons and knobs. Just about everything required is on the wheel, and since weight matters, nothing extra is included. Every knob and button is fully functional and at some time in the race, the driver will probably have to interact with it.

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Guia
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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Guia »

Blinky McSquinty wrote:Doing laps alone on a track with just shifting and pressing the pedals is a huge task in itself. But because you aren't alone, you have to have your spidey sense working, and situational awareness, tracking every car you can see, and believe is relatively close. You also have to continually keep an eye out for flags, miss just one and you could be in big trouble.

Inside the cockpit, at each corner you have to adjust the brake bias, differential, and possibly engine mapping. Then there's KERS harvesting, DRS, engine mapping, and other parameters you have to stay on top of. During a race the car constantly changes, it loses fuel and weight, tires degrade, and the track itself evolves. You have to stay on top of it all and continually make changes in the car and your driving style.

The prime interface between the driver and car is the steering wheel, and it's laden with buttons and knobs. Just about everything required is on the wheel, and since weight matters, nothing extra is included. Every knob and button is fully functional and at some time in the race, the driver will probably have to interact with it.

So that's the driving covered (and nicely done, BTW). Now what of the rest?

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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Sammydj »

Depends on the car/season. If you ask me some season's the car is so dominant that telemetry and development takes a back seat to parading around and winning championships. I'll leave judgement as to which years fall into this category up for debate, but IMO 1995, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2011.

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Guia
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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Guia »

Sammydj wrote:Depends on the car/season. If you ask me some season's the car is so dominant that telemetry and development takes a back seat to parading around and winning championships. I'll leave judgement as to which years fall into this category up for debate, but IMO 1995, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2011.

The thing still has to be set up at each event. No good Michael turning up at Monza with an F2002 still configured for Spa.

Blinky McSquinty

Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Blinky McSquinty »

Guia wrote:Now what of the rest?


Here goes... some duties happen in a certain sequence, such as walking the track, but most I'm just going to put out, because each driver is an individual and does things their own way.

There's sponsor's obligations, for big name drivers the big sponsors get their services for a certain amount of days, contractually obligated. For example, Alonso probably has five or six (pure guesswork) days where he has to go to Santander corporate functions, and they get to show him off, make motivational speeches.

There's visits to the factory, to get in simulator time, learn anything they need to educate him on, give his input to the team, and motivate the people back in the factory just by wandering around the factory and talking to people.

Physical fitness is critical, most train every day, weights, biking, endurance.

Photo shoots, doing voice-overs for animations.

Fan oriented events, such as Goodwood.

Attending meetings of the Grand Prix Driver's Association, and any relevant national organizations, such as the British Race Driver's Club.

Media interviews, casual and more involved, such as Top Gear.

Then on race weekend, the FIA selects drivers for mandatory driver interviews, attendance is compulsory.

Early in the weekend time spent with the engineer to learn any new procedures or bits on the car. Walk the track, going over every millimeter and bump to learn everything about the track.

Debrief after every session. Before qualifying there would be a team meeting to go over goals and strategy. On Saturday afternoon a major team meeting to prepare for the next day's race. On Sunday morning a major meeting with the team to finalize settings, strategy, and anything else relevant to the race itself.

Attend the compulsory driver's meeting pre-race, run by the FIA.

Attend anything asked of the team, meet with potential sponsors, go skiing, testing if asked, and any events where the team gets to show off to fans. Carry the Olympic Torch.

I'm sure I missed a lot, but these guys are very busy, and it's no surprise when they have private time and jealously guard it with quality family time.

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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by fitjiffa »

Inappropriate post removed.

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Guia
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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Guia »

fitjiffa wrote:Mark Webber sometimes pops in to the factory just to pick up a crate of Red Bull.

I'm not sure how that helps us, but thanks.

toilet
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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by toilet »

Blinky i think sums up all that the drivers have to do quite well, and rather succinctly shows that the majority of their time isn't actually spent driving. However, everything that they do is for their driving, without the sponsors they couldn't build the cars so the drivers couldn't drive, without the training the drivers couldn't physically do the driving, without the scant personal time they get they couldn't recharge their mental batteries and so be prepared enough the drive, etc.

Long and short, while the actual driving part is only a total of about 7 hours every couple of weeks, their entire lives, let alone jobs, are solely about the driving.

The only big thing I can think of that Blinky McSquinty missed is the traveling.

Most of these things they have to do are in different countries, they live in one or two countries, the factory is another country, they train sometimes off in random countries, the races are where ever they are at that moment, the various sponsorship requirements will cart them off to pretty much any country in the world. It's no wonder that back in the '60's and '70's a number of drivers and team bosses learnt to fly and flew themselves from place to place. The drivers of today probably spend as much time in airports and on planes as they do doing all the things listed above.

Mind you, has hard as all this seems, I'd give some rather vital organs to be able to be an F1 driver.
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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by SnakeSVT2003 »

Sammydj wrote:Depends on the car/season. If you ask me some season's the car is so dominant that telemetry and development takes a back seat to parading around and winning championships. I'll leave judgement as to which years fall into this category up for debate, but IMO 1995, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2011.


1995? Which car, the Williams or the Benetton? I wouldn't give it to either since Williams would've been caught by Benetton if they didn't push hard when developing it and the Benetton was never the fastest car that year.

2001 was not a case of that either since Ferrari did not have the best chassis (McLaren did) and they did not have the most powerful engine (Williams did), so they had to keep the chassis up to par all season while keeping their engine reliable (unlike BMW) and still getting more power out of it.

Brawn got away by the skin of their teeth in 2009. If they could've developed that car more they absolutely would've, but they didn't have the money for it.

Red Bull still had to develop the car in 2011. They were fastest in qualifying, sure, but their race pace was still an area where they had to improve.

Only 2002 and 2004 could possibly fit into what you described, but as Guia said, they still had to configure the car for each circuit. If they used their Australia setup everywhere else, it would've done them no good. Complacency is the enemy of success, and Ferrari had a ton of success in 2002 and 2004. :D
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Blinky McSquinty

Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by Blinky McSquinty »

Sammydj wrote:Depends on the car/season. If you ask me some season's the car is so dominant that telemetry and development takes a back seat to parading around and winning championships. I'll leave judgement as to which years fall into this category up for debate, but IMO 1995, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2011.


I respectfully disagree. The testing, telemetry, and development is what makes the car dominant all season. If any teams starts the season with a superior car, they will dominate the beginning of the season. But their competitors will be developing their cars in a frenzy of hard work, and not only catch up, but become superior.

For example, when Schumacher and Ferrari dominated, they were testing almost every day back at their track in Fiorano. I also follow the technical side of things, especially updates and the 2011 Red Bull had it's fair share of them.

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Re: How much of a driver's job is driving?

Post by M.Nader -DODZ- »

Blinky McSquinty wrote:
Sammydj wrote:Depends on the car/season. If you ask me some season's the car is so dominant that telemetry and development takes a back seat to parading around and winning championships. I'll leave judgement as to which years fall into this category up for debate, but IMO 1995, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2011.


I respectfully disagree. The testing, telemetry, and development is what makes the car dominant all season. If any teams starts the season with a superior car, they will dominate the beginning of the season. But their competitors will be developing their cars in a frenzy of hard work, and not only catch up, but become superior.

For example, when Schumacher and Ferrari dominated, they were testing almost every day back at their track in Fiorano. I also follow the technical side of things, especially updates and the 2011 Red Bull had it's fair share of them.


Would you mind if i ask of how you follow the technical updates in F1 and how you acquired your knowledge. you seem very well informed Blinky!

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