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CT03 Takes Shape

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CATERHAM
AP

There is one week left of F1's winter hibernation and then it all kicks off again at 0900 on Tuesday 5 February in Jerez, Spain.

The first race of the 2013 season takes place in Melbourne in mid-March, but between now and then the 11 F1 teams who will compete in this year's championship will be racking up thousands of miles in three, four day pre-season tests in Spain in February - the first in Jerez, then two more in Barcelona.

Nearly all the teams will unveil their 2013 race cars before or during the tests, finally showing the world what all the hard work, sleepless nights and millions of dollars of investment have produced. Then it's straight to work on track, with the cars being run constantly (mechanical issues allowing, and assuming they stay out of the barriers) for each day of the three tests.

More on what testing life is like next week, but for now our focus is on what we call "car build". This is an incredibly intense week leading up to the first test when the 2013 race car finally takes shape. The chassis is built, checked and painted and then the tens of thousands of parts that make up a modern F1 car are fitted to the chassis, all under a stopwatch that is counting down until the moment the car has to leave our factory and head to Jerez.

This is the culmination of a process that started almost one year ago when the first discussions about the 2013 car took place. Since then thousands of hours have been spent in the design office and the wind-tunnel, honing the aerodynamic capabilities of the car and designing a complete package that is within the rules, as light as possible and easy for the mechanics to work on throughout the season. Not a particularly easy list of requirements to fulfil, but that is why F1 is the pinnacle.

The work of the design team does not stop when car build starts. In fact they are working several months ahead, and the car the public will see for the first time in Jerez is a version that was signed off by the boffins at the factory many months before it was actually produced.

To give you an idea of how far ahead they work, our design team have already completed work on the updates we will bring to the car right up to GP05, the Spanish Grand Prix in mid-May. They might not be able to tell me what the lottery numbers will be in May, but they can very accurately predict what laptimes our car will do when we race in Barcelona on May 12th. Theirs is a gift with limited value to the outside world, but to an F1 team that sort of information is critical.

Throughout the car build process there will be sleepless nights. There are going to be parts that need to be reworked to fit them into the incredibly tight space they're designed to squeeze into under the bodywork. There will be bodywork parts that need to be adjusted to make sure they fit and the engine and gearbox will be attached the chassis and fired up the engine for the first time in 2013 to make sure everything fits, and, importantly, works!

Assuming it all goes to plan, and it always does, the car will be very carefully packed up and sent down to Spain for T01, the first test. As soon as it arrives the same people who finished building it back in the UK will strip it all down and check everything to make sure nothing has been damaged in transit, and then it will be time to go to work.

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