Once the Formula One™ season leaves Europe, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport has to plan carefully the timing and processing of components that usually come back to the Paint Shop in Brackley, England, after every race. Sometimes the Paint Shop packs up and goes on tour. Axalta’s Spies Hecker found out all about it.
Timing is everything in Formula One™ – qualifying laps times where 1/100th of a second can count, the strategically calculated time to come in to change tires in a race, the split-second choreography required for a pit stop. The timing between race weekends is also critical.
Components generally come back to the team’s Paint Shop in Brackley to be refinished with Axalta’s Spies Hecker products before being sent back out for the next race and the two chassis are repainted regularly. However, once the European leg of the season is over, the timing challenges take on a new dimension for Andrew Moody, Head of Paint and Graphics for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, and his team.
Last season, the two chassis of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport’s F1 W09 EQ Power+ race cars had a scheduled re-paint ahead of the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates. And four of Andrew’s painters headed to Austin and Abu Dhabi to do that.
Everything but the spray booth
Andrew’s team sends everything those four painters need – from gloves, sanding paper, scalpels and spray guns, to all the Spies Hecker products and paint mixes – by sea freight at least two months in advance. “We take everything we need,” he says. “If we could, we would probably even take the spray booths! We have to deliver consistent perfection in everything we do, every day. And that shouldn’t – and isn’t – impacted simply because we are working somewhere other than our Paint Shop.” And when speed and accuracy is required for the painting, Andrew knows he can rely on Spies Hecker to deliver.
Working around the clock
For the four painters who travel – and it’s an opportunity that is meted out fairly among the team – there is very little time to do anything other than work.
In Abu Dhabi, the four painters arrive on the Saturday, a week before the race. They have a designated area at the Mercedes-Benz approved bodyshop. Once there, they unpack and check all the freight, and set everything up. Both chassis arrive Monday morning. The painters then begin the grueling job to strip back and repaint both chassis, which can go on long into the night. They follow the clearly set out processes in Job Element Sheets, which detail the what, how and why, including, of course, all the Spies Hecker products.
They use a variety of Spies Hecker products, including Priomat® Wash Primer 4075, then either Permasolid® HS Vario Primer Surfacer 5340, a high solids primer surfacer, or Permasolid® HS Performance Surfacer 5320, a fast drying 2K HS sanding surfacer. Permasolid® HS Speed Clear Coat 8800 is used on parts that need to dry quickly, and for everything else, they use Permasolid® HS Optimum Plus Clear Coat 8650.
As the bodyshop opens for work, the painters head to get some sleep before going back to the bodyshop to finish the job. Tuesday morning, the two beautifully repainted chassis are collected and taken to the track where they are readied for the upcoming race weekend.
The restriction on numbers of team members at the circuit means the painters don’t get a chance to relax and enjoy the race weekend. “It’s a tough few days for the four painters who travel, as they have to get straight back to the UK and into work at the Paint Shop. Our job doesn’t stop; there is always another race we have to prepare for, a show car to paint, or a new livery we are trying out,” says Andrew.
While travelling to these two races is a normal part of the season for the Paint Shop, sometimes there are challenges, as Andrew explains. “One year, our freight was held up in customs, and it was touch and go if it was going to be released in time or not. Luckily it was.”