MARATHON MEN: PREPPING FOR SIX RACES IN NINE DAYS
Formula E is about to get busy again after an unprecedented and enforced hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the wait is almost over and Formula E is set to go green again next month.
The build of facilities at Tempelhof airfield will begin in the coming weeks, and while that gets completed, the teams are flat-out preparing their cars, safety protocols and dozens of other drills to get ready for what promises to be a remarkable six races in nine days.
One man who will be fronting-up to the major workload will be Mahindra Racing’s chief mechanic, Paul Willett, who knows a thing or two about working impossible hours after coming to Formula E from an endurance sportscar team.
He’s the man who is responsible for ensuring that he and his crew strip down, inspect and then prepare the race cars after they recently arrived back home to the Mahindra base.
“The freight landed back on our doorstep at the beginning of June,” says Willett in a rare ten-minute break from his demanding schedule.
“We were conscious that some moisture could have got in to the freight boxes and potentially done small amounts of damage, so we went through everything with a fine-tooth comb to make sure no gremlins crept in as corrosion can have a detrimental effect.”
Every component, nut and bolt has been checked and replaced if showing any signs of corrosion from its enforced hibernation in Valencia for 11 weeks.
The new procedures that Formula E teams will have to adhere to in Berlin are detailed and necessary. No chances will be taken, and all staff will receive detailed guidelines and training before travelling to Germany.
Willett has a new role which he will work on in conjunction with team manager David Clarke to ensure all the health and safety protocols are followed.
“The whole team realises that these procedures are for everyone's benefit in the championship and the importance of creating the right impression throughout,” says Willett.
“All it takes is one person not to comply to the regulations, and it can have dramatic effects on the team from a sporting side and of course on the health side as well.
“We're pushing really hard so that all our team members understand fully before we leave our base that we have every little detail nailed down.
“Now, we have got the time to work hard in the workshop so that when we get to Berlin, it's a case of ticking the boxes and keeping vigilant on everything. That's all in the preparation that is taking place now.”
As well as the human resource element to the job, Willett will again be on top of the car preparation which is noted for its pride among the whole Mahindra team.
“With six races the level of organisation on preparation and spare parts will be immensely important,” confirms Willett.
“We have a stock of spares and then there are some available at the track through the suppliers (Spark Racing Technologies).
“(Ready made-up) race rear-ends are put through dyno tests before we go so we can fully sign off all of them and have a good level of stock ourselves."
There is one big unknown though of course; the dreaded damage to cars in the heat of combat which could well affect all the teams to some degree over the nine days.
“Again, you just have to be prepared and know that, to whatever level it occurs, it is our job to fix and prepare for every eventuality,” says Willett.
If Willett’s job list were not long enough he is also helping map out details and plans for the all-important development testing which will kick off over the course of the summer.
“Formula E is kind of unique in that you usually have a concurrent testing programme with the race activity,” he says.
“This will be particularly hectic this year with the pandemic having made such an impact, but we will get everything done to the highest level because this is motorsport and this is what we do.”