Race day, a simple enough phrase to many. But, to those who associate themselves with motorsport, the two words have a whole different meaning. It’s the time that really matters, the build up of every emotion under the sun. Hundreds of hours of work go into something that could only last a single lap.
When I spoke to Claire Williams, deputy team principal of Williams, she likened it to a “roller coaster”. And that is incredibly true. Enormous amounts of work for each and every team goes in and not always good comes out. The pressure is immense and you see these feelings physically displayed on the faces of the team members, the drivers and the team principals.
“Everybody in Formula 1 is hugely competitive so it doesn’t matter whether you’re the press officer or the team principal,” Claire says. “You just want to do the best job that you can and get everything done in the time available to you.”
The pressure felt is so much that it becomes exhausting and should not be undermined either. People who work in Formula 1 label it as tiring, but it should be suggested that one can’t fully understand what is meant by that until you have experience it for yourself.
“The emotional stress that you go through, whether you’re winning or losing is considerable and shouldn’t be underestimated,” Claire says. “When you finish a race weekend you are utterly exhausted and drained – not just from the work itself but the emotions that you endure.”
And, as you can imagine, when your team isn’t in the best place, these emotions intensify and becomes “probably even harder to deal with”.
“They are extremely exhausting and you have to pick yourself up and motivate yourself to get back to work in the office on a Monday morning,” Claire says, and this was made even harder with the triple header just a couple of weeks back. In fact Claire chuckled when I asked her about it, and asked if I could see the circles under her eyes.
But, there is a reverse and a mix of calmer emotions to even it out.
“We have to remember that yes, for us this – life and death is an extreme expression for it – but for us as an independent team, our success is critical to us,” Claire says. “You have to remember what we are doing is just sport at the end of the day. It is just a game. There are some real world issues out there that some people are facing.”
While this can be difficult as what happens on-track can dictate the immediate future of a team, it is fundamental that you put things into perspective.
“You sometimes have to put your situation into perspective,” Claire says. “I’m very lucky now that I have a little baby. When we’re going through difficult times, I can pick him up and give him a cuddle. It puts things back into the right vision for me.”
Despite is being incredibly tough world and race weekends are a test of strength, you “have to remember that it’s an amazing world that you’re a part of”.
So while it may just to another event for you, for those on the inside, it’s something much deeper.