In a new series of posts, BlogF1 will take you on a tour of the Formula One factories. These structures are the homes of F1 teams, where the cars are designed, tested (in wind tunnels) and built. Most teams are currently situated in the UK, which might seem a little odd upon first thought. But as most races are still in Europe and given the strong economy and high-skilled work force, Britain isn’t actually as odd of a choice as you might think. The only grievance the teams occasionally voice is that they have to buy left-hand drive transporters as most driving is done in continental Europe (and thus they drive on the right as opposed to the left). Currently four teams reside outside of the UK; Ferrari, STR, Toyota and BMW.
To start off with, let’s look at a team that doesn’t proclaim Britain as its home: BMW Sauber. I don’t often refer to BMW with the Sauber appendage, but for this post it is important to understand that the team were once owned by Swiss entrepreneur Peter Sauber. He based his efforts at Hinwil, just a few kilometres south of Zurich in Switzerland. Perhaps it seems strange that a racing team would be working in a country that for so many years, actually prohibited motor sport. I believe this ban is in the process of being lifted, but through all of Sauber’s history, they were essentially building cars that were banned from being driven in the country.
The building at Hinwil is rather understated, particularly in comparison to some of the more modern facilities that are being built for F1 teams. But in what is essentially a large grey box lies some of BMW’s finest minds. The 6,800 square metre building is set out over four floors, and previous visitors have proclaimed difficulties in finding the entrance. Once found, it simply leads into a lobby with a desk and a lift. Quite unlike the glitz and glamour one normally imposes on to Formula One racing.
The factory is situated opposite an industrial waste incinerator and an abattoir in a quiet area of the town. In fact, Hinwil has only approximately 10,000 residents. However, although situated in perhaps a strange place, the building worked well with Sauber’s ethos; it wasn’t over-the-top or unnecessarily pretentious. Instead, the structure was functional and efficient.
Little has changed since BMW brought the team. The Hinwil base includes a state-of-the-art wind tunnel and a super-computer called Albert. While BMW seem perfectly happy to continue basing the F1 operation in Switzerland, many of the engineering staff remain at BMWs home city of Munich in Germany, working out of one of their many headquarters.
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