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GOOD AFTERNOON

Inside the rebuild of Alex’s car after Silverstone crash

Published on
09 Jul 2022
Est. reading time
7 Min

AA23’s upgraded FW44 was back out on track in Austria

We’ve all seen the crash that Alex Albon was involved in at Silverstone. As the man himself admitted, it was a pretty big one.
Thankfully, Albono is now fighting fit and gearing up for the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend. In fact, he’s only gone and matched his best-qualifying result this season with another P12 ahead of Saturday’s Sprint - which has since been upgraded to P11 after Sergio Perez’s deleted lap times.
While AA23 emerged relatively unscathed from the Silverstone crash, the same can’t be said for his FW44, which was left heavily damaged after the Turn 1 incident.
Not ideal when you’re just five days out from qualifying in Austria. Also not ideal when you’ve just put a lot of time and effort into an upgrade package.
But, through a great deal of determination and teamwork, we managed to repair all the damage and get our upgraded package ready for Austria as we look to build more pace into the car.
But, what exactly goes into repairing the damage of an F1 machine and then declaring it fit to race just a few days later?
Here’s the inside story from Grove.

The moment of the crash

It has been a stressful few days for Jim Barker, our Car Assembly Manager, who quickly went from relaxation to crisis management mode as events unfolded at Silverstone.
“It was pretty horrendous, to be honest. It was obviously so disappointing to have that incident on the first lap at Silverstone.
“Everyone at the factory had worked so hard, produced some beautiful pieces, and we were truly proud of that car as we rolled it out to go to Silverstone. It really looked the part and we were all really excited about the Round 10 package.
“Then with a wet qualifying, we never really got to see its full potential. And not to make it past the first corner of the first lap, was really, really hard to take, just because of the amount of effort that everybody in the factory had put into that particular package.
“It does impact your enjoyment of a Sunday afternoon pretty heavily.
“Instead of maybe having a glass of red wine, you’re getting the laptop out, opening the laptop and understanding the reports that are coming in from trackside.”
It wasn’t much fun either for our Chief Operating Officer Bjorn Bergabo, who was at Silverstone.
“I was there myself and we were all obviously very concerned about Alex’s wellbeing, first and foremost.
“As soon as we knew he was well taken care of, we then started to assess the damage on the car.”
The team assess the situation in the Silverstone garage

The damage

So, first up, what was the extent of the damage and how did the team go about assessing it?
“The chassis is our major part of the car, so it’s important to understand whether there’s any damage to the chassis that would therefore mean it’s not available for the next event,” Jim explains, before going on to reel off the list the written-off components, which highlights the sheer enormity of the repair job at hand.
“It was a huge impact, and thankfully Alex is OK and fit, other than maybe a little bit sore for Round 11. Obviously, the crash structure has done its job.
“And unfortunately that is the end of that component’s life. A lot of time and effort goes into building a nose box and the front crash structure. Unfortunately, that is an item that we’ve lost.
“The tally of parts that we lost were really the front wing, the nose box, the front suspension, front corners, both front wheels were broken. The left-hand sidepod and the left-hand radiator.”
“The tally of parts that we lost were really the front wing, the nose box, the front suspension, front corners, both front wheels were broken. The left-hand sidepod and the left-hand radiator.”
Bjorn was under no illusions as to the extent of the damage either, but knew how important it was to move to find a fix immediately.
“There was quite substantial damage. Between the race team and ourselves, we were able to actually assess it onsite, send a message back here to Grove, saying ‘here are the things we know we’re going to need to work on’."
Jim talks through the damaged nose structure

Speed

This speed in assessing the damage and providing a diagnosis meant we could collectively get on the front foot and attack the problem first thing on Monday morning at Grove, as Jim describes.
“It’s huge, it’s everybody. It becomes a bit of a logistics nightmare. Thankfully, we were at Silverstone, just an hour down the road from the factory here at Grove.
“So it’s about trying to get that car back to us as quickly as possible. We rely on trackside engineering to photograph and document everything literally as the car is back in the garage and the mechanics are stripping it.
“Design are already working on that Sunday evening, so before that car is really even fully stripped at the circuit, they’re assessing the photographic images that we’ve got.
“On Sunday night, the information is already starting to flood through; we have a ‘crisis group’, which is the heads of department that are involved in those different structures.
“They will start to look at that on Sunday night. So when we come in at 6am on Monday morning, we’re in a position where we know exactly what we’re doing.
“Nobody is stood around waiting for anybody; we’ve got all the various departments lined up already to make sure we can work as efficiently as possible.
“That chassis came back here at 6am on Monday morning, and it was back out of here at Tuesday lunchtime.”
"When we come in at 6am on Monday morning, we’re in a position where we know exactly what we’re doing. Nobody is stood around waiting for anybody."
What was left of the car’s nose cone

Teamwork

Working at such a speed is only effective if the team are all pulling in the same direction, particularly when you realise the number of different departments involved in such a big repair operation.
Jim couldn’t help but share his pride in the job everyone has done to put us in a position to run the upgrade package this weekend.
“It is a testament to everybody here at the factory that, by working together, working efficiently, we can go from what is a really devastating incident.
"And it is a little demoralising when you lose so many nice components - but then how do you react? And how do we prepare the best that we can as a team for the next race?
“And I think we’ve done that; everybody has pulled together in absolutely the right direction, and worked really, really hard to produce a car again to the best of our ability for Round 11.”
"Everybody has pulled together in absolutely the right direction, and worked really, really hard to produce a car again to the best of our ability for Round 11.”
Bjorn was also delighted with the effort the team put in but admitted it wasn’t until the day before qualifying that we had finished with a rather key component of the car. All’s well that ends well.
“There was one part that was really the last part to get done.
“That was the new front wing. That literally left the factory this morning, so Thursday morning, and that meant it had to be shipped straight down to the track.
“But, I’m happy to report that, as of now, we believe we have all the parts and we’ve got two great cars that are going to be racing in Austria.”
Alex’s fully repaired FW44 takes to the Red Bull Ring for qualifying on Friday
After a stressful few days, Bjorn is hoping for a calmer weekend and a positive outcome for the team.
“Really looking forward to seeing how Alex’s car performs with all the upgrades that we both planned for and have now delivered for Alex’s car.”
“The whole team will be cheering for both our drivers and cars and keeping our fingers crossed that there isn’t any serious damage.”
Here’s hoping for a positive Sprint Race and Austrian Grand Prix this weekend.
And here’s hoping Jim finally gets that glass of red wine.
Watch the full interviews with Jim and Bjorn
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