Behind the scenes at Red Bull Racing

By on Friday, June 21, 2013

Red Bull Racing

It’s rare to get a peek behind the scenes in Formula 1. It’s even rarer to do so at the home of the triple world champions. Yet we were lucky enough to be granted access to some of the rarely seen corners of Red Bull Racing’s factory in Milton Keynes as part of their #OPENHOUSE day (yes, everything is hashtagged nowadays).

There was obviously a restriction on photography inside the most exclusive parts of the factory, such as the model shop and the fabrication room. Dotted all over the factory are retired racing cars, as well as half sized or 60% models, used for the windtunnel located up the road in Bedford. Lying on the floor? Just some moulds of next season’s RB10…

It was soon off to the Operations Centre where some of the world’s best strategists sit in a windowless room, communicating with team members on the pit wall – also known as the ‘prat perch’ - at each race weekend. Head of race strategy Will Courteney was extremely satisfied at our ineptitude at picking the right tyres and gave an insight into the difficulties of planning for some races.

“Monaco [is the most challenging] because if you get it wrong it’s pretty obvious for everyone to see and with overtaking so difficult there’s almost no way to fix it.” Courtney also conceded that wet races are the worst because every plan goes out of the window. Which is actually slightly ironic for a windowless room.

Race bays, file photo. Red Bull Racing

After trying not to get run over while crossing a soggy Bradbourne Drive it was off to the build part of the factory, where the race bays are located. Team manager Jonathan Wheatley explained the pressures of completing two second stops every single time and how such lengthy seasons can be a drain on mechanics. The race bays were spotlessly clean while a couple of mechanics were in the early stages of readying both race cars for the British Grand Prix, as well as keeping an eye on the spare chassis, just in case. An RB8 also sits forlornly in the race bay for pit stop practice purposes.

Head of technical partnerships Al Peasland explained the logistical challenges for Red Bull, introducing the energy drink’s purpose in the sport as well as the difficulties faced by the team, as a race weekend is like ‘booking a holiday for you and your 45 mates’. With 7000 pieces making up a Formula 1 car, there was a sense of despair from Al when he showed us a video of a crash test. ‘Thousands of pounds of Red Bull destroyed in seconds’, he sighed. It was also a time to reflect on the team's astonishing growth in the sport. People will point to the 2006 arrival of Adrian Newey as the sole reason for Red Bull's titles. It is fair to say that Newey has had a huge impact in Red Bull's success over the past four seasons, but behind Newey is an extremely strong organisation...

After DJ Erok has played most of Daft Punk’s latest album, an Australian rocked up in the marquee. That Australian just happened to be Mark Webber. Mark was asked who his getaway driver would be if he was considering a bank robbery. After some pensive moments – long enough to raise mild concerns for Buckinghamshire Police – he decided on himself. If he wanted to be any member of Red Bull, he’d be ‘Adrian Newey. For his brain capacity and ability to think so far ahead of the rest of us’ as ‘he’s thinking of September and Spa/Monza already and we’re not’.

Trophies. Red Bull Racing.

Fitness coach Bernie Shrosbee, who has worked with the likes of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, used balance boards and visualisation techniques to demonstrate the g-forces the drivers face at every corner. It certainly makes you realise just how fit every single Formula 1 driver is and how Red Bull has honed their techniques to optimise the performance of each driver. “The days of a pie and a pint” are over, says Bernie, but it is possible to over-train, he warned.

There was also a chance to pretend to be a Red Bull mechanic. Have you ever shouted at the television when a mechanic errs and costs his driver valuable track position? Well, if you have the chance to try a pit stop, your respect for mechanics rockets. Wheel guns are heavy, tyres aren’t exactly light and that’s not doing it wearing fireproof suits in extreme heat, under pressure and with a world champion approaching at 50 miles per hour. But still, 6.25 seconds wasn't exactly a tardy effort.

Team principal Christian Horner arrived swiftly from Paris to answer a few questions. He said he’d like to ‘relax the rules’ and cheekily hinted that Mercedes had already helped him in that quest. If he could pick any two sportsmen from history he’d choose Muhammad Ali and, after a little thinking time, David Beckham, ‘from a marketing perspective’. In terms of the most memorable radio message, he chose one from David Coulthard. During a race when the Brit was being held up by an STR driver, Coulthard was not allowed the benefit of team orders. “You’re idiots, you’re all a bunch of fucking idiots”, Horner recalled Coulthard screaming back at them. It wasn’t the best race for Dietrich Mateschitz to attend. And if Horner was a wrestler, what would his nickname be? “Ooh...how about heavy handed Horner!”

It’s clear that Red Bull run an extremely slick operation in Milton Keynes. It isn’t just a world championship winning team, but one that has fun as well. Rivals certainly have a tough task in deposing them from the top step of the podium and taking that world championship trophy away from reception.


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