formula 1

(Photo: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport)


Behind the Curtain: This Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Factory Tour is a Racing Fan Must-Do

Lewis Hamilton is a happy man. It’s the Tuesday after Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport clinched the 2018 Formula One World Constructors’ Championship, and he’s meeting a group of 10 Marriott Bonvoy members at the team’s base in Brackley, England — part of an exclusive experience offered to members through Marriott Moments.

First, he poses for pictures with each guest (“Who stole whose style, you or him?” he asks one young man who’s dressed in the same blue jacket as his father) and then takes questions (What does he like to eat in the off-season? “Pancakes with syrup!”).

It’s the perfect finale to a unique day for these Bonvoy members. Having been present at the Constructors’ Championship celebrations, they’ve also had a tour of the factory, an extremely rare treat and an unparalleled insight into what the team calls “the Human Engine,” the engineering talent that keeps them at the top. This team has won the World Constructors’ Championship for five years running.

The tour starts in the reception of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport’s Operations Centre, one of six buildings on this sprawling site. The room is dominated by Hamilton’s title-winning car from 2017; it’ll soon be replaced by his equally successful 2018 vehicle. Along one wall are trophies won this season by the “Silver Arrows,” from the marvelous Gorilla-with-tire trophy awarded at the French Grand Prix to the more conventionally styled World Constructors’ Championship trophy.

A door at the back of the reception area leads into the factory where, with the exception of the engine (which is made in Brixworth, England), the car is assembled. The innovations developed here are jealously guarded, so all visitors are given a sticker to cover the camera lens on their phones. It’s a clean but not clinical place, a busy place, a place of serious work, with thousands of man-hours devoted to making every car.

(Photo: Courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport)

The first destination is the machine shop. A member of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport’s marketing team explains that all of the car’s metal elements are worked from a single piece, not welded, as she stands in front of a display of parts made especially for the team’s F1 cars. In the adjacent room, 5-Axis CNC mills are humming with energy as they produce the dizzying variety of metal components needed by these high-tech vehicles.

The team’s Head of Build Peter Hodgkinson, a genial New Zealander in a white lab coat, stops to chat as he walks through the machine shop. “What do you think? Pretty good, isn’t it?” he asks, gesturing toward the mills. Nearby, one of his workmates is assiduously checking and cataloging a variety of different metal components.

There is an atmosphere of total commitment: Work goes on here seven days a week. More than 800 employees strive to ensure Mercedes stays on top, and they certainly appear to relish it. “Every day when I come to work, I get to walk in past four F1 cars,” adds Hodgkinson. “That’s better than a normal job, isn’t it?”

Across the main corridor from the machine shop is the room where components are fatigue-tested to ensure they won’t fail in a race. There’s a model car (with an orange rubber model in the driver’s seat) in a simulation bay. It’s possible to simulate the impact of 30 kilometers [18.6 miles] from the worst bit of the worst F1 track here in 30 seconds, allowing the team to be sure every component is not going to fail.

(Photo: Courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport)

A few meters along the corridor is where the car’s carbon-fiber elements are produced. Eighty percent of the Mercedes F1 car’s mass is carbon-fiber, including the bodywork and suspension. A display demonstrates how a piece of front wing — crucial to the car’s aerodynamics — makes it from concept to reality. As much as three quarters of a car can be replaced during the season, which can improve performance by up to two seconds a lap.

At the heart of this compact factory are the race bays. This is where cars come back after each European race to be worked on; outside Europe, they travel from race to race, as there isn’t enough time for them to be brought back. They’re absent today, en route from Brazil to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the season. In the run-up to the season beginning in March, this part of the factory is a hive of activity.

Success here relies on the philosophy that Hodgkinson had outlined earlier: “Every day I get out of bed with the aim of being 10 percent better,” he says. “Imagine the impact when everyone does that.” The technology found at Brackley is impressive — but as this fascinating tour demonstrates, it’s the “Human Engine” that really drives Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport forward.

Marriott Bonvoy members can redeem points for amazing experiences to get close and personal with the team this season, including Hot Laps, race hospitality, driver meet & greets and more. Click here for more information.

The Ritz-Carlton, part of the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio of extraordinary hotel brands, is the Official Hotel Partner of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. With modern luxury at its heart, the Ritz-Carlton currently operates more than 95 hotels and over 45 residential properties in more than 30 countries and territories around the world, creating indelible memories for all guests.