Past Monaco’s glamour: negotiating the GP’s assist race paddocks

Picture: Roger Gascoigne / System Scout

The Miami GP could have boasted extra movie icons and sports activities stars, however Monaco stays motorsport’s house of glitz and glamour: the royalty, the backdrop and the yachts within the (actual) harbour. However not for F2 and FREC

For the System 1 groups, the logistical challenges and the working circumstances in Monaco’s cramped harbourside paddock are essentially the most demanding of the yr.

However spare a thought for the groups and drivers within the weekend’s primary assist races – System 2 and System Regional European Championship. As soon as their monitor classes are full the vehicles disappear off into the space, removed from sight of the celebrities, the spectators and the tv cameras.

As one of many solely media shops to cowl the assist occasions on the bottom this yr, System Scout took the possibility to trek between the 2 junior collection paddocks to search out out for itself about life away from the extra glamorous aspect of the Monaco GP.

F2’s paddock is hidden away in a multi-storey automotive park, the Parking Chemin des Pecheurs, perched on the southern aspect of the promontory under Monaco’s outdated city, tucked away behind F1’s personal harbour-front paddock.

In-built 1982, the automotive park at different occasions performs host to an indoor karting monitor, established by the nation’s personal GP2 race-winner Clivio Piccione, however throughout grand prix weekend, the 2 storeys above floor are given to F2’s groups, parc ferme, scrutineering and the collection’ communal catering services and media working space, with F1 media parking under floor.

Luxurious it isn’t, however as Van Amersfoort Racing’s chief govt officer Rob Niessink tells System Scout, “it’s Monaco so we now have to get on with it as greatest we are able to”.

The groups’ transporters and dealing areas are unfold out over the higher and floor flooring, with groups squeezed collectively back-to-back and side-by-side.

As F2’s director of operations Marco Codello explains, getting the groups into place is reasonably extra difficult than elsewhere: “Time slots have to be organised for every crew as solely two vehicles at a time can enter, that means the set-up operation takes barely longer.”

With precision timing extra related to the Monte Carlo Rally, the groups are allotted a gathering level off the motorway and a time slot for the beginning of their escorted journey into the city.

“Driving the truck within the small streets is kind of a problem,” Charouz Racing System’s chief F2 mechanic Ludovic Moix tells System Scout. “You’ve got a police escort however you continue to have visitors throughout and a few tight roundabouts, so it’s a must to be fairly cautious to not harm the vehicles.”

Whereas the vehicles would usually be manoeuvring by way of the confines of the city early within the morning to keep away from visitors, this yr’s rendezvous was on the Tuesday afternoon because the groups had been arriving immediately from the Barcelona spherical, held the earlier weekend.

As soon as on-site, parking up the vehicles within the tight area of the storage requires the entire truck drivers’ expertise.

“To maximise the working area, it’s essential park the vehicles 5 to 10 centimetres from the partitions or pillars of the underground parking,” says Moix. “In that time it’s fairly difficult for the truckies to do all these operations with none scratches on the vehicles.”

The low ceilings stop the groups from maximising the complete vertical expandability of their motorhomes and privateness is extraordinarily restricted. However the groups are nothing if not resourceful and with years of expertise are in a position to function successfully within the crowded working setting.

“And one good factor is that the groups don’t have to arrange an awning as they have already got a coated roof,” Codello factors out.

In 2022, the groups arrived immediately from Barcelona, a visit of 660km alongside the Mediterranean coast, that means their awnings may keep safely packed away in the course of the weekend.

“Sure, there’s a bit much less area than regular however the greatest distinction is that it’s resonating like loopy as quickly as any individual burns up the engines or after they do a pitstop follow,” provides Moix. “It’s actually noisy all day lengthy in comparison with regular awnings like we now have in Europe.”

Other than the noise, the groups have to acquaint themselves to being indoors, with little pure mild and sometimes low ranges of automotive park lighting.

“You nearly don’t see the daylight for the entire day and generally you don’t even realise what the climate is doing. However you do get used to the darkness fairly shortly and we arrange some further mild and projectors in our working area so we now have all that we have to work correctly,” Moix says.

One main change is the paddock to pitlane process, as Codello explains. “The vehicles and tools must be transported out and in of the paddock through roads that are open to visitors – one thing that solely occurs in Monaco.”

Earlier than every monitor session, the occasion notes set out a strict process to be adopted. Trolleys and tools prepared the ground, neatly organized in pitlane order.

As soon as groups are put in within the pits, the vehicles might be pushed downhill on the brief path to the circuit, by way of two tunnels and down the Avenue de la Quarantaine, behind the F1 paddock and the luxurious Paddock Membership, getting into the monitor on the Virage Anthony Noghes simply earlier than the pit straight. It’s, laughs Moix “fairly a pleasant heat up for the mechanics who’re pushing it!”

F2 groups are used to having to move all the things they should and from the pitlane, and Monaco isn’t any completely different when it comes to what they load onto the trolleys. However Moix notes “earlier than leaving with the trolleys you double verify that you just didn’t neglect something as a result of if it’s a must to run again it’s fairly laborious”.

It doesn’t get any simpler as soon as within the pitlane, because it’s notoriously cramped.

“It’s a race the place all people must be actually conscious of what’s taking place subsequent to you,” says Moix.

“We have to be actually cautious as a result of different vehicles could possibly be driving actually shut, [and particularly] throughout the pitstop we have to be actually cautious as it may be some [neighbouring] groups pitting on the similar time.”

After every session the groups reverse their route, although fortuitously the vehicles are allowed to drive again uphill below engine energy.

Although some visitors jams are inevitable, significantly when one of many crew’s trolleys sheds a few of its priceless load, “the method may be very effectively organised to make the journey from paddock to the pitlane as fast and environment friendly as potential” in line with Codello.

In earlier years, the F2 function race befell on the Saturday night giving groups loads of time to pack up. With the schedule having been revised this yr to condense the F1 programme into three days, F2 was on monitor on Sunday morning, necessitating a fast departure post-race. Certainly, groups had been already busy deconstructing their paddock bays on Saturday evening. “This yr they had been actually pushing to have us out for when the F1 begins so it was fairly a giant rush after the session to have all the things packed up,” explains Moix.

F2, and earlier than that GP2, has used the automotive park since 2005 so lots of the groups have had loads of time to get accustomed to the specifics of the Monaco weekend.

Even so, Codello rightly provides that “it’s spectacular how groups handle the distinctive state of affairs from the second they arrive, when manoeuvring within the paddock, and all through the weekend”,

And for the mechanics, Monaco does give them the uncommon alternative to see the vehicles on monitor.

“[From] the pitlane you possibly can go to the opposite aspect of the wall and actually see the vehicles driving and racing. You might be actually nearer to the motion,” says Moix. “Usually we are able to see simply the automotive passing on the straight however now we are able to see the vehicles going by way of the chicane, perhaps see some overtaking or crashes throughout the race, so from that time it’s fairly good.”

A crash will nonetheless imply an all-nighter for the mechanics, as was the case this yr at VAR after Jake Hughes’ qualifying accident, though this yr’s prolonged schedule did present a full day between every on-track session to make mechanics’ lives just a little simpler.

But when there aren’t any main repairs, “then we now have the chance within the evenings to get some meals or to seize a beer at Rascasse,” reveals Moix, who had purpose to have a good time at Charouz as Enzo Fittipaldi scored 15 factors in Monaco.

“It is without doubt one of the few tracks the place we are able to expertise a bit the ambiance of what’s taking place within the evenings.”

No less than the F2 groups are literally nonetheless situated inside Monaco. FREC’s groups are primarily based on the opposite aspect of the French border within the Monte Carlo Nation Membership’s (MCCC) automotive park in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, 1.6km from the circuit’s Portier nook.

The MCCC is extra famously often known as the venue for the Monte Carlo Masters tennis event, historically the primary main clay courtroom occasion of the season. Nevertheless in motorsport it’s been often known as the house of the System Renault Eurocup paddock for a very long time and now FREC’s on Monaco GP weekend.

The paddock itself is a throwback to the cramped services of days-gone-by. There isn’t any area right here for fancy motorhomes or expandable transporters and the drivers’ briefing on Thursday takes place within the floor flooring of the automotive park.

Attending to and from the monitor entails driving the vehicles in convoy by way of the streets, paying homage to scenes from the Nineteen Fifties and Sixties when grand prix groups would typically be primarily based in a storage close to to the circuit at venues throughout Europe.

Certainly, the La Chatre circuit in France, the place the city sq. doubled because the paddock, continued holding European and French System 3 races into the late Nineteen Eighties, and the Pau Grand Prix makes use of the river-side park and automotive park to base its entrants.

Dino Beganovic, the factors chief in FREC and winner of race two in Monaco, enjoys the particular ambiance that the coastal metropolis offers and, particularly, the drive to the monitor every day.

“It’s completely different,” he says. “To say ‘hello’ to the individuals round. They wave and I wave again, after all,” he provides, laughing.

“However it’s essential be prepared earlier within the automotive, it’s essential get up early as a result of all the things must be earlier to be on time.

“It’s a race like some other; I imply you get the identical quantity of factors. It’s a bit particular as a result of it’s System 1 and it’s Monaco, but it surely [means] much less operating, which is the principle half in my view.

“However, yeah, it’s Monaco. It’s a little bit of a diamond within the season which stands out a bit extra and when you inform any individual that you just’re going to race in Monaco this yr, it’s all the time like ‘wow!’.”

His Prema team-mate Paul Aron shares the keenness for the circuit. “I like it,” he says. “It’s actually cool and, to have the ability to drive to the circuit with the automotive by way of the streets is an superior expertise. I really like being right here and I really like the ambiance and I don’t thoughts the small hiccups we now have to beat being in a totally completely different paddock and so forth to benefit from the monitor time at Monaco and to be along with F1.

“I feel that is clearly one of many highlights of the championship. I heard one thing that they’re planning to exchange it with Pau for subsequent yr and I actually don’t assist that as a result of I feel nothing actually beats the streets of Monaco.”

Aron would welcome extra road circuits in F3 as “within the prime classes you will have many road circuits so the expertise for younger drivers will all the time be good”, and Melbourne in Australia has simply been introduced as becoming a member of the calendar in 2023.

R-ace GP’s Lorenzo Flux is one other who actually seems to be ahead to Monaco, “to only driving on the streets, it’s superb”.

“Simply being right here is particular, the historical past and driving on the streets is simply superb,” he enthuses. “The one factor is that errors are so pricey as a result of the partitions are so shut.”

On the paddock location, Fluxa agrees that “it could be higher to be within the centre of Monaco”.

“We’re in France really, which isn’t superb however, ultimately, we race in Monaco which is the necessary factor. On the finish, it’s nonetheless good right here. I actually loved driving by way of the center of Monaco, fairly sluggish, and all people’s taking a look at you, [taking] images, so it’s not too unhealthy really.”

Requested about his first impressions of the improvised paddock, FREC and Monaco rookie Joshua Duerksen laughs: “It’s attention-grabbing. Usually the paddock is subsequent to the [pit] packing containers however this time our paddock is 2 kilometres away, I feel. Monaco is so small, all the things tight in order that they must discover a place the place all of the championship can slot in.”

For fellow rookie Esteban Masson, “it’s fairly a tremendous ambiance. It’s the primary time I’ve [been in] a paddock and a weekend like this.”

Sadly for the FREC drivers there may be little alternative to benefit from the services of the nation membership.

The view from the FREC paddock

Aron didn’t get to play any tennis, however “I’ve been operating quite a bit and swimming within the sea” as “we have to spend a lot time on the monitor doing nothing, so I attempt to benefit from the off time as a lot as potential”.

Duerksen agrees that there isn’t a time for tennis. “We’re right here to carry out so now we’re centered on doing our job on the monitor.” Masson in the meantime gazes wistfully on the cool turquoise waters of the swimming pool under however accepts that “we now have loads of issues to do right here on the monitor and within the paddock”.

For younger drivers, each a part of the Monaco expertise can be an necessary alternative for an Instagram put up.

Fluxa jokes that if “we wish to do something, we now have to pay, however I’d actually wish to play some tennis right here as a result of it’s the place they play the Monte Carlo Masters so the courts are actually superb, however the weekend is admittedly filled with racing, so I don’t suppose I’ll get to do any of that.”

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