Operation Leafield – exclusive Q&A with Caterham F1 Team

Looking at the youngest teams on the grid, we can say without any doubts that Caterham F1 Team seems to be the closest to gain their first points. Construction of the first car started five months before 2010 season start in Norfolk, where the team has created a technological base. When I learned that the team is going to move their factory to Leafield during the summer break, in my mind led to a series of questions that can only be answered by people associated with the team.

In the second part of this article you will find an exclusive interview with a representative of the Caterham F1 Team, given to f1talks.pl website.

Question: First car was “born” in Norfolk, just month before 2010 season start. When did you decide that you need new base?

Answer: We identified the need to move to a new base in mid-2011, when it became clear that our original factory in Hingham, Norfolk, would be at the limit of its capacity by the end of the season.

Question: Why Leafield?

Answer: Leafield Technical Centre was previously home to TWR and Super Aguri, among other motor racing businesses. The site had been dormant since Super Aguri moved out so we had a factory that we could move into, was a purpose built motorsport facility and had room for us to expand. It is also located in what is known as ‘motorsport valley’ in the UK, helping us attract more staff without asking them to relocate to Norfolk.

Question: Could you give us some details (numbers) about whole operation – people, hours, trucks, meters of sticky tape, cups of coffee…

Answer: As of August 2012 we have around 270 staff working in F1 and GP2. We take 75 people to each race, transporting around 30 tonnes of equipment to each of the 20 rounds of the championship and on average everybody works 18 hour days during a race weekend.

Check some pictures from Leafield released by Caterham F1 Team…

Question: Did you face any problems during that operation? Big loads, special vehicles…

Answer: During the factory move? Nothing unusual. We race at 20 different circuits around the world each year. When we arrive we have empty garages and paddocks and we transport and build everything needed to go F1 racing in a matter of hours. The move to a new factory was essentially a race weekend on a more grand scale, so careful planning, meticulous timing and attention to detail helped make the move as smooth as possible.

Question: Base change it’s not only new location and building. What about people?

Answer: The majority of staff have moved with us. Some have chosen to remain in Norfolk and we are attracting new staff in Leafield from day one.

Question: Leafield was used by some F1 teams in the past but did you need to make any signigicant changes in that infrastructure?

Answer: Not major changes. We need to update and refurbish the whole site, but the basic layout is right for us now.

Question: Next step?

Answer: The factory refurbishment process is under way and is expected to be completed in October 2012. We have cabled the whole site to give us the IT infrastructure we need and we have upgraded our super computer and paint facilities on site. Those have been the primary tasks in the factory – now we get back to racing. Time to score a point!

Watch a tour of Caterham F1 Team’s new Leafield home…

Question: What are your expectations for the new base?

Answer: That it will be our home for a long time, and will be where, one day, we celebrate our first point, our first podium, our first race win and our first championship – one day.

Question: What about Norfolk? I heard that you have some plans for that special place…

Answer: The site in Hingham is still a major part of our plans. We will retain it as a base for our composite manufacturing division and we are moving Caterham Technology & Innovation in there as their new base.

Question: What will you miss most?

Answer: The local community. Everyone in Hingham and the wider Norfolk area have given us the warmest of welcomes, helped us whenever we needed a hand and they have supported us every step of the way.