Painting the world of F1

Spies Hecker, paint suppliers to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport World Championship winning team, gained unprecedented access to the team’s Paint Shop in the run up to the last race of the 2017 season.

Spies Hecker has been responsible for the paint on the team’s Silver Arrows race cars for more than four years. Based in Brackley, over the course of this season, the paint shop will paint thousands of components. Some weeks, as many as 150.

Every Tuesday, Andrew Moody, head of paint and graphics at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, starts the day off at 8.30am by chairing a team meeting with the 16-strong paint and graphics team.

Moody explained, ‘the weekly team meeting allows us to sit down together and run through what we need to do that week. It is a great complement to the work schedule and turnaround lists that the team leaders post every morning, which detail exactly what is coming through the Paint Shop that day, and give an overview of what is needed for the next race.’

He continued, ‘We are very process driven. For every component that comes through the Paint Shop, there is a job element sheet that details exactly what needs to be done, and how; everything from mixing ratios to which grit paper should be used and how much to sand off.’

All body components are weighed following scans, tests and x-rays to ensure there is no damage or wear that could affect the car at the next race.

Everyone in the team is a qualified painter who is trained comprehensively for this very specific role. And because they all have to be able to jump from one job to the next, there’s a clear skills matrix, as Moody explained. ‘Eighty percent of the team can do all the jobs, and 50% of the team are able to do the speciality work, like airbrushing, so flexibility among the team is key to getting everything done. Our work schedule and turnaround lists are the foundation for the day. Things can change, so adapting and being flexible, while maintaining our focus, is essential.’

The 2017 livery’s striking-yet-complex glow lines, stripes and spark effects run across multiple components. This intricacy means that it is essential that the airbrushed design on every interchangeable component matches up with the adjacent panels perfectly in terms of placement, size, shape, colour and shading. And to add to the complexity, Moody explains that the shape of the car is constantly changing. ‘Some race tracks require a high downforce set-up, others medium or low downforce, so we have to adapt to different shaped components all the time,’ he said.

Components go through at least 10 different paint processes prior to being signed off and ready to move on.