This is a guest-blog by someone who attended the recent FOTA Fans Forum in Barcelona. It gives first-hand experience of their trip and provides details on some questions covered during the event.
I am a Formula 1 fan and always wish I had more access to teams’ personnel especially engineers and team principals. The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) Fans Forum is an infrequent event which attempts to address this and when I heard of the next one in Barcelona, I immediately registered my interest for a place, without even checking travel arrangements or whether a translation service would be available!
Luckily I was able to get flights and my place at the event was confirmed. I flew out on Wednesday morning, arrived with several hours to spare till the event and took a train to Montmelo. Even though Circuit du Catalunya already informed me that the circuit was closed to public, I wanted to visit this testing race track.
After the obligatory trip to Montmelo, it took a while to find my hotel – my search wasn’t helped by the diversions caused by a massive street protest in central Barcelona. A quick change of clothes and I hopped on the subway to Diagonal Metro stop; it turns out Avinguda Diagonal (FOTA event venue) is like the M25 of Barcelona – never-ending! After several “Habla ingles? No? Donde estas RACC?” and getting blank faces, I eventually flagged down a cab and arrived to the RACC Headquarters about 7pm.
At registration, each delegate received a badge and translation-headsets, and were shown to the auditorium which was already almost full of Spanish fans. The headset was very useful but I spent most of the evening holding my hand to my ear like a CIA agent because the ear-piece was too big for my ear! Free Wi-Fi was available and most people were live-tweeting from the event using hashtag #FOTA.
Drivers Pedro De la Rosa, Pastor Maldonado, Marc Gene and Vitaly Petrov were first on stage. A lot of attention was directed at local hero De la Rosa and they fielded some interesting questions like:
Young Drivers Testing: Pedro has long been an advocate for more testing especially for Younger Drivers and he admitted that as a third driver, he often hoped that he never had to replace the top 2 drivers as he feared the lack of testing would adversely affect his role.
Data Acquisition & Analysis: All drivers agreed that after each lap in practice they pay particular attention to speed, lateral acceleration, Gs, KERS-utilisation etc and compare it with their team-mates. Brake Pressure would also be assessed to quantify how much pressure the other driver applies to achieve the same braking power. Marc added that the engineers can often get lost in the masses of data but the driver can help narrow down what data to pay attention to and Vitaly commented that he does mental preparation before getting into the car.
Next up were the team principals Norbert Haug, Jonathan Neale, Luiz Sala and Eric Boullier. They tackled questions on financial arrangements within teams, the chances of agreeing to B-Teams and how capital-intensive several changes between seasons are for teams especially small ones like HRT. And also, that more changes could worsen their reliability.
McLaren’s Jonathan Neale was the star of the panel as several questions were directed at him: including the lack of Spanish/Catalan drivers in McLaren, how a physicist such as he ended up in Formula 1 and if McLaren would encourage other F1 teams to follow in their “green” footsteps and become carbon-neutral – to which Boullier responded that Lotus were in the process of achieving and Haug thought the masses of fans watching F1 on TV at weekends means fewer drivers on the roads. Watch the video here
Most fans who attended and those who watched online commented that it was an interesting and enjoyable event. Special effort was paid by the new FOTA Secretary General, Olly Weingarten, to catering for both English and Spanish speakers and the questions were not vetted – which I believe gives it an authenticity and interaction most fans want.
Some interesting debate at the FOTA Forum tonight – and also a hell of a lot of love for Pedro de la Rosa. The fans and he loved it!
The date for the next forum is almost set; it’ll be either the Wednesday or Thursday before the Australian GP in Melbourne. I urge you to attend if you can; regardless of who the speakers are. It is an amazing unique opportunity to ask the most important people in the sport you love, questions that you might never get answered anywhere else.