What goes into an F1 hospitality unit?
After four long-haul events living out of containers, flight cases and rented hospitality units, the FIA Formula One World Championship now sees a return to Europe and the relative comfort of the teams' own trucks kitted out with their own unique, made to measure equipment and workspaces. With the distances between races being shorter teams also bring their own bespoke hospitality units designed to fit their individual needs. Force India is no exception.
This year, from the Turkish Grand Prix onwards, the team will be using an impressive three-storey structure at all European rounds. The framework is the same steel and glass construction used during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, however it has undergone a major refurbishment, both internally and externally. Owing to the huge task of refitting this 350 square meter facility, this structure will only debut in Istanbul so the renovations can be fitted to the team's, and Dr Mallya's, exacting standards. Additionally the first, critical, time-consuming build can be completed without the added pressure of a double header of Spain and Monaco.
More than 1,000 man hours have gone into designing the 'new' motor home. 'We looked at the motor home in a lot of detail at the end of last year,' says team manager Andy Stevenson, who has been the 'project leader' for the renovations. 'Just like any part on the car, we looked at what we needed it to do, evaluated whether it satisfied these requirements and, if not, what we needed to do to ensure that it did.
'The structure we used in 2009 and 2008 was still in very good condition and the square footage it afforded us was perfect, but internally it needed some pretty major tweaks based on the use it had over the last two seasons. We looked at this use in depth and made a plan accordingly over the winter. We worked intensively with our hospitality partners Kitz Catering & Service to get their feedback on what could, or should, be done.
'Last season the use of each of the floors overlapped slightly. The ground floor was used for team and guests, the second floor for team and drivers and the third floor for Dr Mallya's guests and meeting area. Overall, when we looked at it, nobody really had the ideal situation. We needed to revisit each floor.'
Which is exactly what happened, with each floor a separate 'project' in itself. After more than 40 designs between Force India and Kitz, the ground floor has become a space for guests and media where, after stepping through a touch activated sliding door mechanism (also new from 2009), visitors are greeted by a new welcome desk with computerized guest lists that will even - when the person says their name - recognize what their preference of drink is! Next the guest will be seated on furnishings made specially for the Force India motor home, a mix of white, green and orange curved ergonomic tables and chairs. A fully integrated bar area with flat screen TVs will also be available for visitors wishing to chat a bit more informally, while a chill out area gives guests space to read the latest newspapers or team updates. Although this set-up is designed to promote a relaxing yet convivial atmosphere, the work that has gone into making it so has been taxing.
'The ground floor has been a challenge,' Andy continues. 'The whole area has been re-fitted. The floor has been re-laid with a wood laminate to make it more durable but also more in-keeping with the cooler decoration, the electrics completely rewired and the air conditioning units replaced so the whole area stays cool. This has been done in close consultation with Dr Mallya, who takes guest hospitality very seriously.'
The second floor is perhaps the most impressive overhaul from 2009. This area will be used exclusively for team and drivers, but also features a large boardroom-type meeting room, a marketing office and two extended driver and treatment rooms with all fixtures and fittings changed to make it more of a relaxing space for Adrian and Tonio.
This floor will be accessed via a separate staircase that will also have direct access from the kitchen so the team's meals can be served fresh. Again, this whole floor has been rewired - with two kilometers of cables approximately - and air conditioning units completely reinstalled. More than 30 panels will be used to construct this area, which has also been extended by 33 square meters by the addition of an extra container to the semi-permanent structure.
The top floor will remain Dr Mallya's guest and meeting area however he will enjoy the luxury of an additional 33 sq meters as a terrace has been constructed on the roof of the additional containers. Again, this has been refitted completely to have three separate areas, including an office, reception area and guest zone with panoramic and sound-proof windows.
This whole structure weighs more than 40 tones and will take 10 people up to three days to construct - more than the team's VJM03's take to build!
'It's been a major undertaking,' surmises Andy. 'But we feel in the end that it has been worth it. Kitz has done a fantastic job within the timescale and brief. As a team, the biggest selling point you have - apart from on track performance - is the experience you can offer to guests, sponsors and potential partners. We want to excel in every area this year and we're confident that this new refurb will help us achieve this.
"Given the overall benefit we will have, both long and short term, we're quite happy to wait for an additional two races to have a perfect motor home for our needs. The first build always takes some time to get spot-on and rather than have to revisit again later in the year, we want it right first time. In the meantime we will use a temporary motor home in Spain and Monaco while the new improved motor home is driven direct to Turkey. It will be impressive and something the whole team can be proud of when we see it return in 2010."