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Teams fly out back up mechanics to India…just in case
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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Oct 2011   |  11:21 am GMT  |  51 comments

Several of the top teams have flown out half a dozen mechanics to have on standby in case any of their crew should fall ill during this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix.

This unprecedented situation has arisen after stories emanating from the Commonwealth Games, held here in India last year, where many key workers got “Delhi belly” and were incapacitated.

With long transit times from Europe, some teams do not want to take the risk that they might have people unable to work or to perform vital functions, such as late night rebuilds or even pit stops.

The rules say that teams are allowed a maximum of 47 people on site working on the cars, so the back-up people will not be brought into the circuit unless needed.

Most teams are taking extreme hygiene precautions with alcohol hand rub being almost as prominent this weekend as bottled water.

With a punishing schedule of races already behind them, many mechanics are feeling pretty jaded, so immune systems are low and they are vulnerable to illness.

The curfew, brought in this year with the intention of making sure mechanics don’t work all nighters, has had a counterproductive effect, as teams are now simply working up to the curfew hour regardless of whether there is the need to or not. It has simply become the norm and so mechanics without any dramas to deal with are leaving the track for only six hours on Thursdays and working up to the 1-30am deadline on Friday nights.

This is taking its toll on some of the younger mechanics, who are finding it very tough.

Not every team is taking such precautions. One team boss I spoke to of a team currently in midfield said they had stocked up on Immodium tablets and left it at that..

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51 Comments
  1. DanielH says:

    Hmmmm….I think the existence of Delhi Belly is exaggerated. I went to India on my honeymoon this year and didn’t get it at all. It’s just a question of being sensible and eating freshly prepared food from busy restaurants.

    The food in India is AMAZING (James: you must try a dosa for breakfast!) and I think it would be sad if the F1 people didn’t take the opportunity to experience the local food because they’re worried about being ill.

    1. s sreenivasa reddy says:

      Very true Mr. Daniel H, it is just a question of being sensible. The Indian food is Amazing and i bet you can’t find so much of variety in food anywhere else in the world.

      1. Owen Li says:

        I bet China has more variety of food than India
        :-D

    2. Arya says:

      Good to see someone calling it how it is. I am an Indian who loves the food in Delhi. But you need to be careful about where you eat. These issues have been blown out of proportion.

    3. RodgerT says:

      I travelled to Indonesia for work a couple of times last year for work, and the coworkers I was traveling with didn’t want eat anywhere other than KFC or McDonalds. They were too afraid of getting some sort of illness.

      Now while I’m not an adventurous eater by any means, I see no reason to eat the same stuff when I’m half way around the world as I do when I’m home. (not that I eat much at those places when I’m home)

      On topic though. I’m glad to hear that the drivers like the circuit, and hopefully it will provide some good racing this weekend.

    4. Joe says:

      Dosa with sambar and chutney is the most amazing thing ever. But it’s south Indian. Speaking which it would be a dream come true for an F1 race at Kochi, Kerala right beside it’s wonderful natural harbour.

      1. Arya says:

        I don’t really get the fuss. Jaypee has built a resort/village whatever you want to call it only for drivers. And the kitchen there is maintained by chefs from 5/7 star hotels. Drivers would hardly go out from there. Unless they venture out till Agra in a car for Taj Mahal and eat in highway Dhabas(Indian version of highway joints), they should be fine.

    5. Trent says:

      I went to India for my honeymoon too, and I DID get sick! But as others say, the food is awesomely good and well worth the risk.

      The biggest tragedy would be to stick to hotel food and western takeaway chains, but having said that it might be understandable for the drivers!

  2. AC says:

    Sounds to me like mechanics are going to have to pretty much become the athletes and health freaks the drivers are. Not sure that is what they signed up for.

    1. Richie675 says:

      This is Formula 1. Anyone working in this environment needs to give 100% – that’s what makes it the biggest global annual sporting event.

    2. Ricardo says:

      Hi, James and all fans mates..Iam a Phis but in anyway cause India is what it is..one have to be more precautionary than lets say N.Y…it is a good healthy norm to wash hands before and after eating, to eat well cooked foods..or in Indian cuisine case, well washed vegetables..so lets follow our good conservation principles, enjoy India way of life and that great efforts they are doing with this circuit and event..Try Indian meals, drink safe water and as in anyplace around the world..DO NOT eat at anyplace..first use your eyes, then your nose and lately your pockets..bye..and thanks. Ricardo

      1. Sri says:

        Ricardo,

        Nice reply. Liked your last sentence :-). Pragmatic.

  3. The Kitchen Cynic says:

    Sorry to ask a perhaps stupid question, but if they’re hanging around till 1.30am whether there is a need or not, what are they actually doing?

  4. Fareed says:

    James maybe a new strategy for the engineers to consider? Instead of trying to optimize the pit stops for tire wear, the winner may be the driver who has to make the fewest bathroom stops? ;)

  5. Glynn Harrold says:

    “One team boss I spoke to of a team currently in midfield said they had stocked up on Immodium tablets and left it at that..” LOL Great response.. :)

    1. Scott says:

      I bet it is Williams.

      1. ACB says:

        Williams is midfield?

      2. Ambient Sheep says:

        I had the same thought.

  6. Pingguest says:

    So much for cost reduction…

  7. David T says:

    Going to every Grand Prix around the world; working with the greatest drivers, aerodynamicists and engineers in the world; but having to stay up until 1.30am…
    …sounds like the sort of ‘problem’ I wouldn’t mind having :)

    1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

      Yep! Most of us “armchair fans” would give our left nut to be employed (and be paid!) to be part of an F1 team. Or even an F1 reporter, aka James.
      Suck it up, and adapt, boys!

  8. Richard says:

    It’s perfectly understandable top teams don’t want to take any unnecessary risks so reserve pit crews and mechanics as a contingency seems fair enough.

    To be honest I’m more interested in Ferrari’s flexible front wing. – Might seem that they might have over done it.

    1. ACB says:

      It is a bit wobbly-to the point of causing sparks.

  9. Mr Squiggle says:

    Delhi belly is a reality.

    A back up crew on stand-by is good risk management, but I would have them somewhere off-shore. If 4 hours is close enough travel time, better put them up in Dubai or something.

    James – Incidents & deaths in motor racing seem to happen in statistical clusters. Any long term fan knows this, anyone who digs back will see it in the history books.

    And so this weekend, with the tragedies of Dan W and Simo, the F1 circus visits an untried Indian track, pictures of dogs on the tracks etc. I. am. a little anxious. Can’t help it.

  10. jmv says:

    it almost an insult to India.

  11. Sam says:

    I’ve been to India a dozen times and got it almost every single time without fail either there or worse on the flight home, many of my work colleagues have similar experiences that we tend to laugh about whenever the subject of someones next trip to India comes up its no joke regardless of precautions and a prudent decision on the part of the teams imho.

    One question I do have is about the power, I would guess all teams/broadcasters have access to generators or something along those lines because in my experience the grid is rather flakey…

    1. ACB says:

      Heard the same thing, power outages as well as power surges.

  12. goferet says:

    OMG!!! Delhi Belly!!!

    Right, am now breaking into a cold sweat for last evening Hammy said that he had-had an Indian dinner

    God Save Lewis Hamilton!

    Say, it’s really amazing how formular 1 think about everything, good on the teams for bringing with them insurance for the CommonWealth Games were a bitter lesson (Hopefully the Indian officials will have managed to eradicate most of the rats in the commentary box & stray dogs on track before race day).

    Okay, am feeling sorry for the mechanics for they sure do keep a crazy schedule & all this thankless work isn’t even acknowledged especially in the mid-field & monkey-at-the-back teams.

    Bosh, F1 isn’t a place for the faint hearted. Oh well, at least they get to see the world & live in nice hotels!

    P.S.

    Red Bull need just one more pole from the last three races to score the highest number in a season.
    The Milton Keynes-based marque, McLaren and Williams are all level on
    15 poles in a season.

  13. Simon says:

    Any chance of pitstops being in the region of 10+ minutes whilst drivers look for the paper before they visit the throne?

    1. devilsadvocate says:

      Could always try and one up mark webber and his “helmet” incident, make for a hilarious podium with the winner up there in his soiled jumpsuit

  14. JohnBt says:

    I’m very sure the food served for the F1 fraternity will be very well monitored. So no worries at all. India can’t afford any screw ups after the Commonwealth Games.

  15. Msta says:

    James, perhaps you may have done one in the past but is there any chance you could do an article on what a race weekend is like from a mechanic’s perspective? It would be interesting to hear about their schedules, roles and what its like when the cars are called in for their stops and there’s a direct battle on between crews, not to mention their immediate reactions when one of their drivers has a crash in quali or practice. Are their consequences for a mechanics who for example don’t secure a wheel nut correctly leading to a wheel coming loose or the lollipop man for unsafe releases and the like.

    Cheers to a hopefully safe weekend for F1.

  16. Jodum5 says:

    I guess wealthy teams will find a reason to spend money.

    I don’t get the curfew thing. If there’s no issues why keep the staff up the curfew? Is it all teams or just a handful?

  17. Daniel says:

    Possibly some of the teams need to hire a biologist – alcohol hand rub is one of those mythical things bought to tick a health and safety box, but everyone I know who has ever worked with dangerous bacteria sticks to soap and water.

  18. iwan says:

    Yeah, its being exaggerated. I’ve been there and as long as you use your head you’ll be fine. And I didn’t use alcohol wipes (freaking sissies!)

    Don’t eat food from a street vendor ( can you imagine drivers doing this?!), drink only bottled water (make sure the lid is still sealed), don’t eat anything more spicy or hot than usual and you’ll be fine.

    1. Trent says:

      Bad advice-the street vendors are awesome!

  19. Daniel Jackson says:

    James

    Can you explain this bit: “..teams are now simply working up to the curfew hour regardless of whether there is the need to or not.”

    Are you really saying that teams are making staff stay at the circuit until 1:30AM even though they have nothing to do? If so, why on Earth are they putting their employees through this? It seems extremely counter-productive.

  20. Phil T says:

    I hear Karun Chandok is taking Jarno Trulli for an Indian tonight…

  21. forzaminardi says:

    Hmmm, possibly a bit over-cautious, not to mention perhaps patronising? When I’ve been to India it’s been fine, just drink bottled water (bought from ‘proper’ shops, not geezers at the side of the road) and eat in modern-looking restaurants or packaged food. I dare say it’s the ‘poorest’ country F1 visits but it’s not completely lacking civilisation.

    1. Randy Torres says:

      “Not completely lacking civilisation”? Are you kidding me? The Druids were still throwing stones at the Romans and India had already been civilized for a thousand years. I suppose a comment like that is to be expected from someone who calls himself forzaminardi.

  22. Robert McKay says:

    “The curfew, brought in this year with the intention of making sure mechanics don’t work all nighters, has had a counterproductive effect, as teams are now simply working up to the curfew hour regardless of whether there is the need to or not. It has simply become the norm and so mechanics without any dramas to deal with are leaving the track for only six hours on Thursdays and working up to the 1-30am deadline on Friday nights.”

    Classic F1 at its counter-intuitive best, really, isn’t it…if you create a rule intending to stop one thing, inevitably it creates that same problem in a different way!

  23. mo kahn says:

    Wouldn’t it be better if the teams got their own food?

  24. David Hodge says:

    On the two business trips I have made to Mumbai and Delhi, I never had problems at all except for my own stupid fault. As many posters have mentioned, provided you are careful, you are fine. Indeed it was a pleasure to taste such a rich array of different foods and experiences.

    My mistake: I had a salad where I did not know where it had been washed. Fine for a few day after I got home in fact then it hit me, painful stomach cramps being the other thing on top of the expected symptoms. Best way to rid yourself of it – eat nothing, drink only (by then) European tap water as necessary and within 24 hours your body should have purged itself.

  25. Simon Lord says:

    The advice we were given by a locally-based colleague when we travelled to India was, ‘Take all the care you can but expect to get Delhi Belly anyway – it’s in the air.’ Perhaps the teams should wear face masks, too? But we survived two weeks before we succumbed, and of course the Commonwealth Games teams were there for longer too, so F1 teams might be ok on a short visit.

  26. def says:

    My late father-in-law used to tell the tale of a colleague who swore that on business trips to India he avoided such maladies by way of a diet of pork pies and gin packed in his suitcase. Hmm…

  27. Jason C says:

    To be totally boring, I thought ‘Delhi Belly’ was down to a sudden coplete change of diet rather than food poisoning. As in you can Delhi Belly and carry on, whereas if you get food poisoning, you suffer much more.

    As you travel so much, James, I’ll take your view as definitive.

    1. James Allen says:

      Luckily I also avoid Delhi belly as much as I can so I don’t know the answer to this!

      But Sauber has one guy in hospital on a drip after a meal he ate at the track, so the risk is there

  28. Harsha says:

    Guys, come on. F1 is a global circus, and it goes everywhere. Everywhere there are local complications. Why is this so called delhi belly being hyped up so much? As long as you are sensible and don’t go overboard, you’ll be fine. Lets not hype up something thats even not worth it.
    As a proud Indian, I will be the first to put my hand up and say yeah, the CWG was shambolic. But this is something completely opposite. This project is in the hands of a private company whose thankfully not been cut down by govt. officials. Its also nurtured by us Indian motorsports fans who are equally passionate and knowledgeable as fans all over the world.
    And to make such a big hype and hoopla over this silly thing called Delhi Belly is totally not worth it.

    1. James Allen says:

      Tell that to the Sauber guy who’s on a drip in hospital. But you are right that this is a good event, well organised, great track and it is sure to be a success. Only thing was the crowd on Saturday was disappointing. Hope to see it looking more full on Sunday

      1. Vivek Mathew says:

        Hi James,
        As Jason C. posted earlier, a sudden change in diet is one of the main reasons most foreigners suffer from the so called “Delhi Belly”. Indian food is much more spicy than what Westerners are used to, and you could eat at a posh restaurant and still get into trouble, simply because you are not used to such a spicy diet. That said, even us Indians who have lived here all our lives could get sick if you are not careful from where you eat.And that I guess is the same else where in the world.

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