McLaren’s former number one mechanic Marc Priestley reveals what life was really like behind the scenes of the world’s most glamorous sport, F1.
The Mechanic – the blurb
In the high octane atmosphere of the Formula One pit lane, the spotlight is most often on the superstar drivers. And yet, without the technical knowledge, competitive determination and outright obsession from his garage of mechanics, no driver could possibly hope to claim a spot on the podium. These are the guys who make every World Champion, and any mistakes can have critical consequences.
That’s not to say the F1 crew is just a group of highly skilled technical engineers, tweaking machinery in wind tunnels and crunching data through high spec computers. These boys can seriously let their hair down. Whether it be parties on luxury yachts in Monaco or elaborate photo opportunities in gravity-defying aeroplanes, this is a world which thrills on and off the track.
Join McLaren’s former Number One mechanic, Marc ‘Elvis’ Priestley as he tours the world, revealing some of Formula One’s most outrageous secrets and the fiercest rivalries, all fuelled by the determination to win.
This is Formula One as you’ve never seen it before.
We join Marc as he starts working for McLaren during the early 2000s. A time when McLaren were fighting for the championship, the infamous ‘Spygate’ occured and a certain Mr Hamilton arrived on the scene. Cigarette sponsorship was still prevelant and money was made to burn. These boys worked hard yet partied harder and Marc was going to tell it all. I’m a massive fan of F1 and was keen to read what life behind the scenes was like.
Money, money, money
Marc regaled some brilliant tales including missed flights, courtesy car trashing and blue hand dying. F1 has always been a bit of a travelling circus which Marc highlights with his most illuminous pen: ‘there was that time when we hired a helicopter to dry out a wet track’ or ‘that time when we sent an F1 car in to space’ No cost was spared in the pursuit of perfection, publicity, or partying. Marc was a man living the dream and it was a delight to read.
Yet a mechanic can only travel the world with F1 if he, well, mechanics and this too is relayed well by Marc. I can only imagine the pressure a footballer must feel when they stand to take a penalty. The knowledge that it’s all on your shoulders. For F1 mechanics this pressure is the pitstop. Races have been lost and won from a tyre change and no-one knows it more than the guys at the end of the wheel gun. Marc devotes a whole chapter to ‘the pitstop’ and rightly so. The extreme tension described brought me out in cold sweats just reading it
There were also some very controversial moments witnessed first hand by Marc that we get to read about. As the 2007 title chase developed between Alonso and Hamilton, the two sides of the McLaren garage rode unchartered terratory which Marc recounts from the relatively neutral third car position. Then ‘Spygate’ occured where McLaren were fined $100 million for receiving confidential information from rival Ferrari and prevented from winning the Constructor’s Championship. It would have been easy for Marc to be very bitter about his former employer, or equally very fawning (he is still in contact with them, albeit from the other side of the wall as he now works as a commentator and has a You Tube channel devoted to F1.) Yet I found Marc to be very honest and objective in his telling of this difficult time.
See a diamond pick it up
Whilst The Mechanic delivers little nuggets about those behind the cars that F1 fans will love, even none fans will raise an eye brow at the antics Marc recalls. I mean who in their line of work searches a chassis for discarded diamonds in case they fell off a crash helmet emblazoned with them by the teams diamond sponsor? It’s well worth a read and is a good candidate if you’re stuck for Christmas ideas for the petrol head in your life.