The cry of anguish from an anonymous mechanic who shakes the foundations of Formula 1

“Often when people talk about the stresses and strains of the gigantic F1 calendar, they say that if you don't like it, you can go. Som

The cry of anguish from an anonymous mechanic who shakes the foundations of Formula 1

“Often when people talk about the stresses and strains of the gigantic F1 calendar, they say that if you don’t like it, you can go. Some team leaders have even said it. ” The anonymous ‘letter’ of a Formula 1 mechanic has uncovered the subsoil that also nourishes this cosmopolitan, glamorous and global universe. A warning for sailors that will fall like a bomb on those responsible for the teams and Formula 1. Not because they are not aware of it, but because groundwater begins to emerge with more and more force.

In an article published in the British medium Autosport, an anonymous mechanic exposes the harshness of daily life faced by the base army of Formula 1, mechanics with cycles of up to three weeks in a row, races on all continents, under punishing conditions on the road and, of course, under the maximum performance pressure demanded by this discipline. Although it is a personal and subjective appreciation, it is easily extrapolated. Next year Formula 1 will have 23 races on its calendar, the highest in history.

The life of F1 mechanics has hardened notably with the pandemic and the increase in the calendar

“Absolutely shattered”

“You can’t hide the fact here that life on the road as a Formula 1 mechanic is tough. It has always been that way, and none of us do it because what we want is to make something easy. But, as the Formula 1 calendar has expanded and triple races have become the norm, lthings have reached a breaking point for many people who work in garages ”, The complaint begins, which is also a kind of cry for help. Our mechanic offers a multifaceted mosaic of challenges and working conditions that become a kind of American track for physical and mental health.

“The working hours are long. From Wednesday before a race to Sunday night is a minimum of twelve hours a day every day. You don’t realize how much that takes away from you until you go back to work at the factory, and a normal eight-hour shift is almost comical because it seems very short to you! “explains the protagonist of the report.” What makes it especially difficult is that it is relentless, with no recovery time. You work from the moment you You get off the plane, and that may be after a really horrible flight where you’ve been canned in economy class and got little or no sleep. After an end-of-season triplet in Mexico, Brazil, and Qatar, the combination of budget flights Punishers, late hours, and time zone changes meant everyone was absolutely wrecked. It was then that I think I saw people with more difficulties ”.

The “toxicity” in coexistence

Once placed in the corresponding circuit, the extreme performance pressure begins “You have to combine the above with the really high expectations of everyone in the garage to work at the highest level. Pilots and all factory personnel trust you to do your job 100% and not make mistakes. When you do, there is this silent disappointment on the part of others. They ask you why you allowed it to happen. Then you start to doubt yourself. It makes you risk even more mistakes, because you stress more. The pressure plus the fatigue caused by the number of races and the triple weekends it has reached a point where the environment in garages can be very toxic at times ”.

A toxicity derived from the close and inevitable coexistence between the team members. “There is no escape from taking a little breath. You have to do gearbox and then maybe you have to do suspension. Sometimes there isn’t even half an hour for lunch, as you feel like you need to devour your food to get back to work. ” Not to mention the impact of an accident by a pilot on his team of mechanics, already in this personal orbit.

The sense of humor to dispel such an environment is a recurring tactic in stressful or dangerous situations to distance emotions, but the effect can be the opposite. “There are a lot of jokes, but they can get nasty quickly. I’ve seen it many times where it’s been fun but then he has crossed the line too much and the humor has become too black. It can have a negative impact on some team members who have insecurities regarding their appearance, sexuality, or work status. Exacerbating these insecurities can lead to depression and all that goes with it, such as social isolation and an unhealthy lifestyle. ”

The double standard

Our mechanic also points the accusing finger at double standards with the ‘lower classes’ of a team. “Mental health awareness on teams’ social media is often focused on the drivers, but not the rest of their workforce. It gives the impression that top management does not want to evaluate their mechanics and technicians, because they are afraid of the results. If they know them they know they have to act and ultimately a mechanic is not important enough to worry or spend extra money. That leaves some of us with the feeling that if one suffers a mental breakdown, and I know a few colleagues who have, there is no additional support for us. ” Horner and Wolff were talking precisely about it not long ago, perhaps still facing the gallery judging by the issuer of the ‘letter’.

“But that attitude just shows how disconnected some are from the reality of what is needed in F1, this belief that you can just put replacement people in like new light bulbs. If you push everyone to the limit there will only be kids doing it. You will not find great mechanics, you will not find great technicians and the sport as a whole will fail because it is no longer about the best people working for the best teams, attracting the best drivers. ”Does it make sense that the limit of Cost exempts the highest paid staff from the team who already enjoy far more luxuries than those who work on the garage floor?

The covid and wages

To all this, in the last two years the rules of the covid and its most onerous travel tolls have been added, such as the delay back home compared to the original program, and how the physical and mental load accumulates as the season progresses. Then at home, usually in Britain, isolation. “And the calendar changes without warning, so we have to put our lives aside so that the people at the top make more money.”

Because economically, it does not begin to pay to be a mechanic, apparently. Mechanics are also paying a high price for the budget cap. Salaries have stagnated in the last 20 years, and what motivation does that give you for the amount of time, mental and physical effort that you are dedicating throughout your years in the sport? ”, He asks, revealing that a part of the savings to which the teams have been forced fall on the base. “Since teams are trying to control spending due to the cap, they just can’t afford salary increases keeping up with inflation. So he’s going to lock in wages and wipe out the job market in F1 as it will lag behind other series. There’s a weird scenario where it’s almost better to go to work in Formula 2, Formula E, or the WEC for a little less money, but do almost half the races and not have to put up with all the hassles of a schedule. of 23 races. It should not be like that”. Presumably someone will be taking note.

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F1, “at a turning point”

In the end, the whole previous panorama shifts towards personal life and to the detriment of the family environment. “When such enormous fatigue hits you it is something horrible, horrible. When you are away from loved ones, you can feel very lonely. Then when you come home on a Monday morning or night and haven’t slept well in days, it affects how you feel in your personal time. It means that relationships can suffer, either because you are angry with your people or because you have other things in mind, and that is not fair to anyone. The doctors and physios of the teams are aware of this, but it seems that pain relievers and pills seem to be the only remedies. “For those who do not want this path, they turn to alcohol.”

Better flight conditions for the toughest trips, staff rotations during the season, more recovery and exercise time, medical check-ups, better salary conditions … These are some of the recipes for the current ‘mechanic’s disease’. But, above all, it asks for “a little empathy at the top of Formula 1. And a better understanding of what our life is like when you hit those brutal low moments in the middle of another triple racing weekend. ”

The anonymous mechanic warns: “I think Formula 1 is reaching a turning point. A lot of people are talking about quitting this year, something that hasn’t happened since I’ve been in this sport. Those who manage Formula 1 are aware of everything, but I don’t think they fully understand it. If Formula 1 does not react to what the mechanics feel, it will end without people. ”