The off season. Troops of Formula One fans huddled around camp fires, stoking the flames with morsels of rumours, driver swaps and circuit changes. It is a testing time for F1 fans, most of the year is taken up with high octane racing; pre, post and rumour. Then we’re thrust into the dark, alone and frightened, left to fend for ourselves.
Admittedly it isn’t quite as dramatic as it’s been made out, although sometimes it can feel like that when it’s been a couple of weeks since your last F1 hit. Options are limited but there are a few thing you can do to keep the cold away like watching old races, or reading a few good books. But then again, if you don’t mind several hours of bone-chilling numbness then a show run in winter is for you!
For the newly crowned double world championship team it was a chance to thank their home town (and those willing to make the journey) for their support for this year and years previous, a fitting end to a year where they solidly dominated historic and long-running teams from Australia onwards. It may have not been the smoothest of rides for one of their drivers, but today was simply about Red Bull bringing Formula One a little bit closer to the masses.
The Track Walk
First call of duty was to inspect the track, a few pot holes to negotiate, as well as the alien concept of a roundabout to contend with, all in the day of a Formula One driver I suppose. But today wasn’t all about seeking out the best view, helping out @WingsForLifeUK was most definitely on the agenda. Focusing on researching ways to heal spinal cord injuries, Dietrich Mateschitz and Heinz Kinigadner founded Wings For Life in 2004 with the aim of making said injuries curable. With the founders covering admin costs, every penny you guys donated goes directly into research so thanks to anyone who helped fill the buckets!
Whetting the appetite of those braving the arctic chill was the presence of several Formula One cars, those that would be running later were sheltered in a makeshift garage, one show car was left to fend for itself outside and the other was cosily tucked up in the warmth between M&S and a tea shop. The NASCAR that David Coulthard would be taking for a spin with the lucky competition winner was also out in the elements, so although many wouldn’t be able to get into the paddock there were great views to be had, including close ups with the drivers and half of the 2012 BBCF1 team. Jake Humphrey and DC were providing the commentary for the day, allowing us to revel in exactly why BBCF1 won the FIA award. Let me tell you, the camaraderie in not under threat (man hugs and dancing proved that).
Smells like Red Bull Spirit
The air was permeated was a steady rising buzz from heady anticipation, chattering teeth and the unmistakable rumble of firing F1 engines. The latter is the reason why any F1 fan should make a trip to any teams show run, that emotion-stirring thump in your chest music that is orchestrated by the finest minds in engineering. Who kers if you’re a McLarener, lifelong member of the tifosi or a fully paid up Williams fan, no one should be able to resist a sparked up F1 engine. The modern sound of F1 still punches straight at the heart, the low frequency rumble races across the ribcage and mingles with the ear-wrenching scream to stop you in your tracks.
Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were first to take to the Milton Keynes track, however conditions weren’t ideal as the moisture that lay atop the tarmac led to a hairy moment for the Australian. Spinning his car around to come back down Midsummer Boulevard, he placed a gentle kiss upon the temporary barriers, the merest peck before continuing on his way. David Couthard and his lucky passenger did their best to dry up the track, but the ‘gent’ that DC was didn’t push too hard, as highlighted by the NASCAR team once he returned to the paddock! Chris Pfeiffer rounded out the adrenaline fuelled line up, but had a few issues with a lack of grip when performing some of his patented ‘you shouldn’t be able to do that’ stunts.
Getting into position for the second run was far more successful and resulted in a moment that will be hard to forget for some time. As you may or may not know Mark Webber is the Rookie F1 driver of choice, so when he decided to park his Interlagos taming machinery right in front of you, it’s not exactly hard to imagine the reaction. The moment was made all the sweeter with the company, we found ourselves stood with the front jack man’s family. Pausing for the briefest second he tore away, breaking the persistent chill (and possibly the odd eardrum) as he hurtled away.
Then, if it couldn’t get any better both Vettel and Webber returned to the track together. Two F1 cars side by side on the streets of Milton Keynes. The sight of two F1 cars looping a roundabout was almost poetic, or at the very least it looked damn cool from the heli-cam, after leaving elegant signatures in rubber they parked up for the day and to signify the end of the season (and the beginning of their Christmas party) a torrent of blue, red and silver filled the air.
With the driver parade finished (Webber and Horner in one car, Vettel and Newey in the other), and Jake and DC finishing up proceedings (displays of bromance). It was time to visit the paddock and see what treasure lay inside; bosses, champions and award winners if you were wondering. First up was the most popular team principal on the grid, a handshake and a request for a photo later and I was stood next to Christian Horner. Turn around and there was Jake Humphrey, more photos later and the mind needed a breath to collect itself. No time, Sebastian Vettel was just over there, a little trickier to get close to but a photo opportunity wasn’t out of the question. In fact ‘don’t ask, don’t get’ was the motto of the day.
It’s hard to argue that there is a better way to spend a Saturday during the off season, okay maybe some F1 fans might find spending a day with 60,000 Red Bull fans a bit hard to swallow. But if you strip the day back to its basic elements it was an exhibition of the limits of automotive engineering blasting about places they shouldn’t be, by drivers at the top of their game.
So what were you waving, a Vettel finger or a Webber roo?