Badger’s British Grand Prix weekend was made all the more special this year thanks to one of the new teams on the grid – the rather fantastic chaps at Virgin Racing.  They may not have won the race, but in terms of engaging the fans of the sport we all love, this new team lapped the rest of the grid again and again.  If you’re not already, get following them on Twitter – they’re the most open, honest and chatty bunch of the official F1 crowd on there.  Through their tweets and their website, they promoted a great opportunity to camp with them for the British GP at Stowe school, complete with a tractor transfer to the circuit – you can read more about that here.

What’s more they gave Badger a rare treat, the sort of thing money can’t buy – a few hours hanging out backstage in the paddock and the pit lane on the Thursday afternoon.  We were collected in one of the oh so funky F1 golf carts and escorted to the paddock complete with fancy paddock passes.  It’s a somewhat surreal experience being free to roam around the paddock, having a chat with Peter Sauber who was enjoying a fat cigar, bumping into Liuzzi, Heidfeld and Virgin’s own, Timo Glock as well many other of F1’s unsung heroes (that’s the engineers folks!) before having a tour of Virgin’s hospitality area and enjoying the view.

We even had the chance to have good look around an F1 team’s pit garage, which resembles more of a laboratory than a garage with it being squeaky clean and organised with loads of odd but complicated looking gadgets neatly aligned.  The engineers were hard at work on the cars, ensuring they’re ready for Friday practice.  Seeing such activity close up really brings home how intricate and perfect F1 engineering is, check out the photos:

Car in progress
The F1 engineers tool box
Under the covers

We explored every nook and cranny of the VR garage and have compiled some facts that you may not have known already (we didn’t!)

  • Smoke alarms – well things that look like one above the cars are there to monitor whether any work is being done during Parc Ferme (and no, putting a bag over it won’t work)
  • While Virgin Racing is pretty much Manor GP, with Branson turning up only to selected GPs, the Virgin brand definitely helps with getting sponsors (have you seen Sauber’s blank canvas this season!?)
  • Geoff, the wonderful Technical PR chap at VR often tweets direct from the pit wall
  • The team’s CEO Graeme Lowden is a thoroughly nice gent and one of few (if any?) CEOs present in the paddock throughout the GP weekend
  • How hot is F1 fuel – very, around 80 degrees – so hot that it begins to vapourise, so very special pumps are needed to pick up the fuel to feed the engine.
  • The team’s new front wing for Silverstone had a camera mount that wasn’t machined, but ‘grown’ – a method formally known as sintering
  • Under no circumstances must anyone (Badger or otherwise) photograph the floor pan of an F1 car
  • Each car has over 300 sensors on it, which send data back to garage – a seriously bonkers amount (see one of the screens below)
  • There actually is a bloke that says ‘gentlemen start your engines’ – he’s the one who’s monitoring all the data on the car before it leaves the garage.
  • The front wishbones on an F1 car can’t support the weight of the car alone, without the suspension, dampers and what not – i.e. if one thing goes then it’s game over – there really is nothing extra in F1 car design, it’s playing at the limits of every single component.
Timo's controls


Geoff assured us that engineers aren't usually head-scratching

The 'smoke' alarm FIA Parc Ferme monitoring gizmo
The Cosworth engine with oil tank mounted on
Your editor with Badger's senior member, Uncle Badger

So there you have it, that’s Badger’s exploration of the Virgin Racing pit garage, if you have any other questions or comments, use the comments box below.

Here at Badger we wish VR all the best for the rest of the season and will be keeping a close eye on their progress during the 2nd half of the 2010 season.