MY WORK­ING LIFE

Friday - - CONTENTS -

Af­ter 13 years in the trade, F1 me­chanic Ole Schack prefers to shift down af­ter a win, rather than drive to an af­ter-party.

Ole Schack, front-end me­chanic on Red Bull Rac­ing driver Max Ver­stap­pen’s car, shifts gears to talk ex­pen­sive steer­ing wheels, pre-race ten­sion and the Abu Dhabi GP.

How did you get into this, Ole?

Be­ing an F1 me­chanic had al­ways been my boy­hood dream, and in 2004 that came true. I trained as a reg­u­lar me­chanic, and I have pretty much done race cars all my life.

What’s a typ­i­cal race day like?

The race day for us ac­tu­ally begins on the Wed­nes­day when we start pre­par­ing the race cars. They take a lot longer to put to­gether than they do to take away, so we pre­pare the race car, build­ing them to the right spec­i­fi­ca­tions on the Wed­nes­day and the Thurs­day. On Thurs­day we have a bit of pit-stop prac­tice, then two prac­tice ses­sions on the Fri­day, which is where we work out how we’re go­ing to change the car for the race and for qual­i­fy­ing. Fri­day is our long­est day be­cause we pre­pare the race car it­self.

And it’s not even the week­end yet...

Satur­day morn­ing is a bit of pit-stop prac­tice again as the car is now com­plete and we get a chance to see how it’s do­ing; then we have a last fi­nal prac­tice ses­sion be­fore qual­i­fy­ing, which comes later on Satur­day. Af­ter qual­i­fy­ing, the car is in what’s known as ‘parc ferme’ [closed park], so we can’t do a hell of a lot to it: There’s a race scru­ti­neer in the garage look­ing at what we do, be­cause the car that we race in should be the same as the one we qual­i­fied in. Be­cause of that, Sun­day morn­ing is quiet be­cause the car is still un­der park ferme, and we start gear­ing up for the race about two hours be­fore it starts.

And when it’s all over?

Then comes the big one: Sun­day night is the pack-up, so that we can get it all shipped up ready for home or wher­ever the next race is.

What do you do dur­ing the rest of the week?

If it’s a dou­ble-header we’ll be go­ing straight to the next event to start again, but if it’s a Euro­pean race and we’re back home at the fac­tory, we’ll have a cou­ple of days off so we can rest a bit and then we come in and pre­pare the race car for the next event. We nor­mally pack the car up by Fri­day and have the week­end off. Late nights, long week­ends and the thrill of win­ning cham­pi­onships, the finely tuned life of me­chanic Ole Schack

How ner­vous is ev­ery­one be­fore the race?

I can only speak for my­self – it’s tense, I would say, rather than ner­vous, although I guess the first race of the sea­son ev­ery­one’s al­ways a bit ner­vous. The rest of the time, you can cer­tainly feel an at­mos­phere be­cause it’s what we’ve been here to do all week and we’re build­ing up to it. It’s a good ex­pe­ri­ence, though; a re­ally good at­mos­phere.

What kind of in­ci­dents are most chal­leng­ing? When­ever you have some kind of in­ci­dent in prac­tise three, be­cause you’ve got to get the car re­built again for qual­i­fy­ing, which is two hours later. That’s the big­gest chal­lenge. Oth­er­wise the big­gest chal­lenge is try­ing to win the race.

What was your most dif­fi­cult day at work? We’re talk­ing about 13 years of dif­fi­cult days. No, I guess the hard­est day for me was Hun­gary 2012, when my dad passed away.

F1 cars are no­to­ri­ously ex­pen­sive – can you tell us about a tiny com­po­nent that costs a huge amount of money to make?

The steer­ing wheels are very ex­pen­sive be­cause they are so time-con­sum­ing to make. With the steer­ing wheel, the tini­est of dif­fer­ences can count, so we look af­ter them very, very well.

How spe­cial­ist are the me­chan­ics?

We are spe­cial­ist in so far as we’re front end, rear end or gear box me­chan­ics, but as we’re all me­chan­ics, we can help out every­where. Peo­ple do spe­cialise, though, and you cre­ate a lit­tle mind-set re­lat­ing to how you’re go­ing to build the parts you put in the car. How does the team cel­e­brate?

Un­for­tu­nately, we’ve got to pack up first and quite of­ten that can be pretty late. We try and have a drink in the garage be­fore we leave and then it de­pends on where we’re go­ing next. If we’re go­ing home, a few peo­ple might go out to a night­club but I pre­fer my sleep, to be hon­est.

What was your best day ever?

Any of the four days that we won the Cham­pi­onship. The first one in 2010 was very, very spe­cial. To win it was amaz­ing as we only led on the last day, when it re­ally mat­tered. 2012 was an­other very spe­cial one be­cause it was in Brazil and af­ter turn num­ber four, we were fac­ing back­wards with a dam­aged car and we had to get sixth place to win the Cham­pi­onship – and we just about man­aged it. Very tense.

How well would you fare if you went up against Max Ver­stap­pen in a race on a video game? Not very well. We wouldn’t be talk­ing sec­onds be­tween us, but min­utes!

Are you able to fix the fam­ily sa­loon car, or is it a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ball game?

I’ve not done peo­ple’s cars for a long time, but I do fix my own car and re­cently fixed a col­league’s, so yes I can still use my me­chanic skills – nuts and bolts are nuts and bolts.

What do you en­joy about the Abu Dhabi GP? It starts in the day and fin­ishes at night, so that makes it dif­fer­ent, and the at­mos­phere is dif­fer­ent, too. As it’s last race of the year, I think ev­ery­one’s ready to have a bit of a win­ter break once we’re done. It’s nice warm place to fin­ish.

Af­ter qual­i­fy­ing, the car is in what’s known as ‘parc ferme’ [closed park], so we can’t do a lot to it: There’s a race scru­ti­neer look­ing at what we do

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