Badger newbie, Nick Bean gives you the lowdown on the Red Bull car launch
First things first. I am not a journalist, and as such, I am not used to the jet-set lifestyle of the F1 paddock. I am a fan of F1 who enjoys nothing more than sitting down with a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit on a Sunday afternoon to watch the F1. In fact, that remains my upmost priority on Sunday’s between March and November, much to the annoyance of my girlfriend. I have written a few articles for this site and do so for the love of the sport – nothing more. So imagine my surprise (and child-like christmas day-esque excitement) when I was asked by the chief badger, Mr. Adam Milleneuve, if I would like to attend the launch of the Infiniti Red Bull RB9 at the team’s factory HQ, in oh-so-glamorous Milton Keynes.
The answer was a resounding “Yes”.
The day of the launch I made my way from my East London flat to London Euston Station, and then onward to Milton Keynes to meet with fellow Badger, Craig Normansell, who then drove us to the factory. The Red Bull Racing factory is pretty tough to miss, being adorned with a 20 foot high Red Bull logo and with the world’s press camped outside (obviously stalling our car on the way in was the best way to let the world know that the pros were here).
We were ushered in to the main reception, where the team has it’s rather impressive trophy collection, and given our press passes before being told that there was a car on its way to collect us. “Err, aren’t we already at the factory Craig?” I asked, before getting a cursory shrug of the shoulders in return. Moments later, a brand new, and rather swish, Infiniti M (I think) pulled up outside and whisked us a full 100 yards to the back of a warehouse, resembling something from The Sopranos rather than the launch of this season’s favourite car for the F1 title.
My car door was opened and we were escorted into what can only be described as a make shift nightclub, where our jackets were taken and we were promptly supplied with Sushi and a variety of cocktails, all seemingly containing a certain Austrian energy drink (the cocktails, not the sushi, that would just be strange).
And so I sat, taking in my surroundings filling my face with raw fish when Craig nudged me, “Look who’s just walked in” he said between sips of Prosecco and Red Bull, it was none other than British motor-racing legend, Sky F1 commentator and Red Bull’s host for the day, Martin Brundle. A quick glance around the room made me realise I was indeed in exultant company. The BBC’s Gary Anderson was chatting to, F1 tech blogger – Craig Scarborough, behind them was ex-Toro Rosso driver – Sebastian Buemi, and to our left various other members of F1 journalistic set including Ted Kravitz and Jenny Gow.
After finishing our drinks we moved into the main warehouse toward a a roped off area in front of the main stage, where a distinctly F1 car shaped object was parked under a silk cover next to four stools. We were 6 rows from the front – result. The rest of the press shuffled in and the rest of the warehouse filled with competition winners and factory staff before the lights dimmed and Mr. Brundle took to the stage.
A few words of welcome to various guests and sponsors were followed by a few minutes of dialogue regarding the relentless process of F1 and the hard work that goes into the creation of every F1 car. This segued nicely into Red Bull’s awesome “Rhythm of the Factory” video, demonstrating the different processes involved in building the RB9 before revealing the car itself.
Lights up, and Martin introduced to the stage messieurs, Newey, Horner, Webber and Vettel, who took their place on the stools next to the car, looking a little like the strangest and most heavily sponsored boy band in history. Mark and Seb then unveiled the new car to the straining of many a neck in the enclosure. Even from row 6, the view of the car was limited to the top of the roll cage. Attempts to stand or to photograph the new machine were met with stern looks by event security, who threatened to “confiscate” any cameras caught taking cheeky snaps – not at all paranoid then?
Press questions followed, with various high profile news outlets asking questions. “Should I ask something?” I thought to myself tentatively… I had a great question in my head, I was invited, I was (for the day at least) a member of the press… why not? Up went my hand, and over came the event microphone. This was it. This was my chance to come across as a cool and collected in front of the world’s media. The bright lights were only a moment away… I could almost see BBC and Sky clambering over their seats to make me the next Jake Humphry…
“Er, so… um… the new cars… Have you seen them… The other new cars I mean… I mean… Which of the other competitors is going to be the… er… most competitive?”
To their eternal credit, the event security didn’t walk over, chloroform this obvious intruder and drag me into the back of a van, as I expected them to. Instead, a rather sultry Mark Webber piped up, stating that “He hand’t really seen any of the other cars”, and that he had been concentrating on “This baby”, by which I assume he meant the RB9, rather than Sebastian. Maybe this journo thing is harder than I thought.
More questions followed and I was struck by two things. Firstly; Mark Webber was not happy. Perhaps it was the comments from team advisor, Helmut Marko that Mark cracked easily under pressure, or maybe he didn’t like the rather vibrant purple of his 2013 ride. Who knows. Secondly, Vettel is a PR dream. Always smiling (three world titles on the trott will do that) and a sense of humour meant he was the star of the show, even joking about conspiring with the German press for world domination.
Sooner than I realised it was over, the drivers waved goodbye and the car was covered up. In truth, those waiting at home for images online saw better images of the car than most members of the assembled media… much to their annoyance.
We also managed to grab a quick word with Martin Brundle on our way out. He was most polite and seems both a genuinely nice guy and someone who realises just how lucky is to be able to travel around the world doing what he loves, and that would be my main take away from the day. Most of you reading this are F1 fans, and would probably have loved to have the opportunity to attend the launch of a new car, and everyone I met at the event seemed to radiate a passion and interest for the sport that is rarely seen in a normal workplace. The people covering the races and the events seem to love what they do, and it’s not hard to see why.