Red Bull Factory Tour: Part 1

“04:45! 04:45! 04:45!”

Usually such a violent awakening at this time would result in the offending device being propelled into a wall; but today is different. Very different. Cajoling the car into life with de-icer and bloody-mindedness; a swift check on the phone tells me the train is already late, and the next one is cancelled. I know my brother, the McLaren fan, is secretly smirking in the back of the car. And with my previous fears about the weather firmly rooted in  my head, I step into the station and hope that something is going towards London.

Claiming my seat by half-six, I was already fit for bed in all honesty, but I had the Mark Webber 5Live podcast to keep me company. That and the promise of on-board entertainment…

Right...where are my dancing pit-girls?

So much for the entertainment carriage, huh? I won’t review the interview now, but it was refreshing to hear someone being so open and honest. Apparently he didn’t want to review any of the questions beforehand; considering his propensity for being outspoken, I’m sure Red Bull PR were happy. There’s no doubt about it, Formula 1 needs more drivers with personalities!

Frozen points in Swansea only delayed me by half an hour, and then it was business as usual once I arrived in Paddington. And after some seriously dodgy instructions from a Starbucks employee I managed to locate the Portobello Hotel; tucked away down a side street I found the Pepe Jeans rep.

The first winners I met had conquered oceans to get here (well, The Solent) from the Isle of Wight. A brave task considering the inclement weather, but a little digging revealed one of them was a Ferrari fan, it was inevitable one should crop up! And as we’re loaded onto the coach my stomach does backflips, not due to the upcoming events but because of the flashing light on my camera. No spare batteries to hand…would Red Bull work?

No matter, I’m on the way to Milton Keynes and it’s all about Red Bull and Formula 1 from here on out. Our coach was understandably subdued; many travelling from far and wide, many traversed the arctic wasteland bestowed upon the country. We may have been quiet, but Twitter was screaming with busy thumbs.

Whenever Milton Keynes is mentioned in polite conversation, my mind instantly starts re-dubbing the speaker with Bill Bailey’s impression of Marilyn Manson. But once I’m over that it’s full on Red Bull territory. However the territory between London and Milton Keynes is rapidly being swathed in a flurry of determined snow. I’ll admit that I secretly hoped for a monumental drift to trap us inside the factory.

Finally here!

Not quite enough snow yet, but one can hope! Our driver picked his way through the endless twists and turns before the iconic logo loomed out in the distance. My stomach lurched as we pulled ever closer; the charging bulls framing the world-beating factory. Awoken from our early-morning haze by the biting winter chill, we stumbled onto hallowed ground and into reception.

And there she was, the legend that is Thelma. She had been lauded by the team, after personally couriering a package of front-wing components to Singapore. Moments into the visit and I had already ticked off one of my more obscure wishes. Meet the legendary Thelma…check!

Think they might need to make some more room

The rows of hard-won trophies glittered proudly underneath the fluorescent lamps, with only a thin sheet of glass stood between me and them. Being an ardent Mark Webber fan for years, seeing every single win in the flesh was vindicating, there’s the proof he’s a winner. There was the proof he’s worth the years of support.

Oh and course the constructor’s trophy! How could I forget?

Only took six years!

After taking in the silverware we were taken across the road and into a waiting area, and without warning the group was reduced to a fervor of childlike glee. Regardless of age, in the presence of automotive genius we couldn’t contain ourselves. Cameras were uncovered and the air was filled with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, regularly permeated with the clicks of memories captured.

Enjoying Red Bull hospitality

But before the overwhelming urge to wedge ourselves inside the cockpit took over, we were ushered into the waiting conference room for the talk with Red Bull’s Business Development Manager. On the surface this may not seem the best way to begin the day, but this was far from corporate spin, this was a fan talking to fans.

Steve Nevey guided us through Red Bull’s history with humour and ease; his knowledge of Formula 1 stretched back to the days of Arrows, working for them before moving to Jaguar. And with Jaguar being bought out by Dietrich Mateschitz; he stayed at the factory as is transformed into Red Bull Racing. The carefully selected photos flicked through as Steve regaled us with how Red Bull has come to win the double.

This is how you lift an F1 car

His role is to bring the talent into the company, to discover new ways of working with materials and new approaches to every changing regulations. One aspect I noticed throughout the say which was highlighted here, was the focus on youth. The average age of the 580 strong workforce is 30-35, Christian Horner is the youngest Team Principal and Sebastian Vettel the youngest driver’s champion.

It’s no bad thing; it fits their general racing ethos. The approach they take is to ask ‘why do you do it that way?’ and if the reply is ‘don’t know’ or no answer can be scrambled together, then they take it on themselves to create a new solution. This attitude resolved an obstacle facing them in Monaco…how do you fit the energy station into the most crowded paddock in the calendar?

You float it in of course! It’s constructed in Italy and floated into the harbour on a pontoon; shared with Toro Rosso, it provided an excellent backdrop for Mark Webber’s win this year. The ‘energy station’ is transported across the globe and in an effort to do it differently, they operate an open door policy allowing anyone to experience their famous hospitality. Although you might not see McLaren in there; Martin Whitmarsh is not exactly a fan of the music they blast from the garages during the weekend. Regardless of other opinions, it’s a very clever marketing strategy, if you’re good to the media they tend to repay the favour.

All that and you can't see me!

Before we departed for lunch our future tour guide Helen (who had transferred from Williams GP several months ago) explained that Sebatian Vettel’s victory photograph took two hours to coordinate. Not surprisingly, due to exuberant celebrations of the team inside the garages.

Lunch afforded me the chance to get to know the contingent, innately opinionated and passionate about their chosen subject, once our plates were cleared were bonded over a mutual love of F1. And Red Bull of course! By the time we were taken on our tour we had put the (F1) world to rights.

  • Sebastian Vettel was a deserved winner; but many wanted to see Mark Webber win.
  • Team Lotus has a big backing and all are glad to see them stay green and yellow.
  • Quite a few were far from being an Alonso fan, with ardent anti-Alonso-ers(?) commenting on his ever-expanding facial hair collection.
  • The increasing cost of being a Formula 1 fan was a contentious issue; the hope of one going to Silverstone was met with the advice of re-mortgaging!
  • Everyone agreed that the advent of Twitter and BBC red button, has made the sport more accessible from home. With the drivers and teams being more open as fans we feel closer to the sport. Team Lotus and Virgin received big thumbs up for being friendly and replying to fans regularly on Twitter.

Vettel or Webber?

With lunch out of the way we were then split into two groups to be taken around the factory; a thoughtful touch even though there were less than 20 of us to begin with.

So I’ll leave you here for the time being and the next post will have all the goodies from the tour itself. What’s in store? How about, what exactly goes on behind closed doors, who’s dating who and an appearance from someone special…

Check it out here

Late rookies!

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Comments
5 Responses to “Red Bull Factory Tour: Part 1”
  1. May i also ask how come you publish this as yours, i readed it somewhere else

    • rookief1 says:

      Did you read this on the Red Bull Community? If so, I posted it there too as I thought RBR fans would be interested. If not could you let me know where? Thanks.

  2. tomtoma2z says:

    I too have been to red bull factory all though not on a tour, i was in milton keynes and as every trip to Milton Keynes isn’t complete without seeing it went and saw the iconic bull.
    The message you’ve received above I suspect is spam as I had one a few months back which was pretty much identical.

    • rookief1 says:

      I wholeheartedly agree, although I haven’t been to Milton Keynes since, but when I do I know i’ll be taking a detour. Cheers for the heads up, I wasn’t sure at the time.

  3. tomtoma2z says:

    neither was i, i thought it was a real one but now i don’t

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