More than a week ago, i received an email from a representative from Lenovo asking me to block my Thursday as i was chosen to experience the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 Garage tour by Lenovo Malaysia. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get close to this mean machines and also the team behind it. I was dumbstruck when i read the mail. I have attended F1 races a couple of times but never had i gone to the garage. Actually i did go to the garage once but that was during the Porshe Race a year back.
I was asked to be at the Lenovo office by 9.30am and upon arrival, i was greeted by Blake who brought me to the office pantry where everyone was having breakfast, Nasi Lemak. I was joined by 2 journalists, Brian aka Goldfries and the staffs of Lenovo including Mr Khoo who is the Country General Manager.
After breakfast, we moved to the conference room where we were all briefed by Mr Khoo on how Lenovo and McLaren Mercedes works together in F1. Last year, Lenovo pumped 2100 equipments into the team and redesigned their IT infrastructure. All these to help the team have more computing power as well as shorter time to process data that is being sent to and from every split second.
Before leaving the office, i was presented with a token of appreciation which totally took me for a surprise. LOL.
Only 5 of us left for Sepang track and that included 2 reporters, Mr Khoo, Brian and me.
Upon arrival, we had to switch to another van which is the official shuttle service that would bring is to the entrance of the Paddock. Before that, i was given this pass which would be used to get through the electronic gates. I was already excited when i got the pass, it’s damn nice and it’s heavier than the usual once.
We were dropped off about 200 meters from the entrance and was greeted by Chris Leat who is the Partner Manager with McLaren. I was asked to use the pass to touch the machine which then shows the exact same ID on my pass and then i was let through.
We had to pass through the Ferrari garage and i have to say the ladies in the Ferrari suit are just hawt ! I am not sure if they are part of the team or spouses but that red suit definitely looked awesome on them !
Chris then gave a short introduction on what to expect, the dos and don’ts before bringing us to the garage.
The team actually just arrived and it’s noticeable with McLaren staffs cleaning the floors as we entered. The main garage area was already operational with both cars still being assembled and the rest of the systems being hooked up accordingly.
We met with Ted Bowyer who is the systems engineer and he showed off how the system corresponds to the car and in this case he was showing Lewis’ performance in his previous race. This would help drivers to know which area they could improve.
The area you see above is something new to the team and it’s called the Central Engineers Counter aka the Island. Previously each drivers have different teams to help them with the data but for this year, McLaren and Lenovo came up with this idea so that information could be shared faster. On top of that, F1 would be reducing the amount of people allowed on a team and this would definitely work in their way as it reduces at least one extra person.
Then Tom Graham appeared, who is the IT analyst for the team. He showed us why the Island is crucial and how Lenovo has helped them eliminate the bulky notebooks as well as Desktops. Here he shows how the tablet could be removed from the Island and brought to the driver to show him certain data.
Being in F1, it’s always about shading time, weight and cost. Previously with desktops, the team takes longer to pack up and the tendency of having a corrupted data is high. With Lenovo revamping their IT infrastructure, notebooks and tablets with solid state harddisk are introduced. For those who have no idea what is solid state hard disk, just imagine it as a super large pendrive as the hard disk.
The product integration are as follows:
ThinkPads – T400, X200, X200 tablet, X301 and W500 – all integrated with Vodafone 3G
ThinkStations – S10, S20, D10, D20 – mainly for data task, car design and aerodynamics
ThinkVision – L2440x, L2440p, L1700p, L174, L1900p – mainly used at the pitwall as it requires high performance screens.
While Ted was explaining, i couldn’t help but to look at the car beside me. It was Jenson Button’s and it’s definitely far from ready but just being able to beside this beast was awesome. Of course it’s different ride from last year when he was with Brawn GP. It had to be inspected with the FIA to be sure it’s the same car with right specifications before they could reassemble it back after the Australia race.
Outside of the garage were parts of the car like the body and the nose. If i am not mistaken they are left to dry in the sun after some polishing or oiling. Every detail of the car is carefully checked and of course none of us were allowed near the car. You wouldn’t want to end up paying the damages to a multimillion dollar car wouldn’t you?
Behind all of us was Blake who was busy snapping around
Chris then brought us to the pit wall where important decisions are made and where drivers communicate back to their team. Here high res screens are used to make sure, data can be seen even with the blazing sun.
We then took a stroll down the pitlane and saw other teams preparing their cars as well. Rivalry aside, teams actually do talk to one another and that’s because it’s a small world in F1 sports and you are ought to see the same person through out the season. On top of that, people do change teams now and then, so there’s still the relationship with the previous teams
We then headed back to the garage.
I never knew each team had their refreshment area and this was McLaren’s ! There were a few staffs manning this place and was quickly asked what would i like to drink. The heat was killing me and sitting in this airconditioned area was like heaven, LOL. I asked for Apple Juice while the rest took Coke.
After a 15minutes rest, we wrapped up the tour.
As i was walking towards the exit, i realized many photographers and tv crew were running towards me. Little did i know that i was walking side by side with the Ferrari drivers ! There’s definitely Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa but i can’t seem to see who the 3rd individual is, probably Fishichella or Badoer?
Chris followed us all the way to the shuttle service and then he bid us goodbye and rushed off for a team meeting.
Oh ya, forgot to mention earlier that we were driven in this, a Toyota Alphard. So VIP-ish, lol. This reminded me of my trip to Jakarta which i will soon write once i am done with Yogyakarta
I can honestly say, this was one of the best F1 experiences i had to date ! For that i would want to thank Lenovo Malaysia for giving me this opportunity and also being hospitable from the moment i stepped into their office.
I always had the impression that sponsor in any sports, in this case F1 teams will only go as far as having their brands at strategic areas just for the sake of advertising. But Lenovo did show me the other side of it, on how they work hand in hand with one of the powerhouses in F1, McLaren Mercedes to achieve a desired result.
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