Mon 16 Jul 2007
As mentioned previously, I was lucky enough to be one of the select few chosen to visit the Red Bull Racing factory, from the thousands who donated money to Wings for Life and therefore had their picture plastered over the Red Bull of either Mark Webber or David Coulthard at the British Grand Prix last weekend.
At first I assumed there would be quite a few attending, then there would be a group photo and that would be that but I was sent an e-mail with the itenerary for the day which started with us meeting at the factory at 10.45am. The e-mail also confirmed who would be going, and the list only included 9 names!
After meeting up, we were greeted by and introduced to Christian Horner, the Team Principal of Red Bull Racing who was then whisked off outside for a TV interview while we were then introduced to our guide for the day. Bearing in mind that tours must be given very rarely, the guy did an amazing job of showing us around and provided a very informative narrative on what exactly it was we were seeing as we travelled round about.
The factory is actually split over 3 buildings. One has only recently been acquired so they were in a state of construction as machines were being moved from one building to another to allow for the expansion.
The first building is where Red Bull Technologies actually exists - this has to be a separate entity from Red Bull Racing so that the same design team can work on cars for RBR and also their sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso. This building obviously houses all the design team, which are situated on the first floor along with the chief design guru Adrian Newey.
In a somewhat digital age it was nice that amongst all the PCs present, Newey’s office is still home to a massive drawing board - apparently the only one in the building.
We then proceeded through to the main design area which was a more open-plan affair with a myriad of designers all hard at work honing various components on the car. Due to recent retirements, we were encouraged by our guide to spit on the people working on the gearbox as we went past! Thankfully I think everyone refrained from doing so…
Once the designers have come up with an idea which is deemed as being worth testing, the design is sent downstairs where a scale model is built for testing in the wind tunnel Unfortunately both wind tunnels operated by RBR are situated offsite so we were unable to see that step of the process. To build most of the scale models, they use a quite amazing machine which starts with a vat of liquid resin into which it fires lasers to solidify the resin in particular places until the complete part has taken shape. The liquid resin then runs off and just leaves the hardened part - it was much easier to understand when the guide explained it! The intricacy of the parts which can be made using this technique is far in advance of anything which can be made by hand.
We were then taken through to see how the other parts are made from various alloys and metals. There was a table of components which we were allowed to handle, to demonstrate just how unbelievably light they can make things yet retain the necessary strength for the part to last a race distance.
In order to ensure this is the case, there is a room which is kitted out with various rigs on which they can test parts to destruction. After each race, some parts are sent back here to be stress tested because although they may look okay from the outside there may be some damage internally which could result in a failure on track.
There were several areas where we were discouraged from taking pictures as they are already working on next year’s car - maybe they should be concentrating more on this year’s given the recent disappointing run of form!
Over the road in the Red Bull Racing factory, much of the building was under renovation so we didn’t get to see an awful lot. They had a showcar of last year’s RBR2 which was shining away for us to take pictures of. This is usually where the cars would be brought back to after a race, for the mechanics to work on them but after the French GP the team had gone straight to Silverstone so the only people visible were the builders working on the new factory floor.
Back over the road again and it was time for lunch in the Red Bull Racing Restaurant - all free for us of course! It was good to see that everyone was happy to be in the same canteen, even Christian Horner and Adrian Newey ate their lunch with the rest of us - I’m not sure that would happen at the other F1 teams.
After lunch we headed off to Brackley to visit XtremeGraphics who were in charge of applying the thousands of faces to the cars. They are also responsible for the hundreds of canvas prints which adorn every spare wallspace in the factory - they are all pictures of the car or drivers and some of the images are very striking indeed.
After a little introduction from the boss there, we were allowed to look around the various car parts which had already been completed. As the British GP was a back to back event following on from the French GP the previous weekend, it had turned into a bit of a nightmare and I felt a bit sorry for the guys there as they had a lot of long days and nights ahead of them prior to the grand prix!
The car’s bodywork is obviously made up of various component parts so the faces were printed off on sheets which were to be applied to each section. The sheets which were yet to be applied were laid out on tables so that we could try to spot ourselves among the thousands of pictures on there. Due to the possibility of accidents and other incidents during the weekend, some of the parts had to be made in duplicate or triplicate which meant the stickers had to be applied to all these extra components as well.
Some of the parts are relatively small so applying them correctly and without bubbles wouldn’t have been too tricky but to do the larger areas took a lot of expertise, time and patience.
After everyone had found their photographs on the car, we then had to give individual interviews with the TV crew which had followed us about all day as well as pose for pictures with the photographer who had also followed us on our tour.
Thankfully I don’t think the TV interview has seen the light of day yet, but the photograph has appeared with the story of the tour in my local paper - something I wasn’t really expecting!
All in all, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see behind the scenes of a Formula One team and I’m extremely grateful to everyone involved at Red Bull to have been given that chance. It was a shame the drivers and actual racing cars weren’t there, but you can’t have everything!
As this post is a little long, I’ve provided links to various photographs I took during the day rather than including them in the text itself :
Red Bull Racing - Wings For Life 1 - the various sheets of stickers were laid out on tables to allow us to find ourselves on the car and also to allow the guys applying them to find the right part for each section.
Red Bull Racing - Wings For Life 2 - although the nosecone isn’t the biggest part of the car, given it’s cylindrical shape applying the stickers wasn’t an easy task.
Red Bull Racing - Wings For Life 3 - the Red Bull Technology building, although it’s just a factory, they certainly know how to make it look good!
Red Bull Racing - Wings For Life 4 - don’t know why these were in this office, but it was a nice photo opportunity! The white one looked awfully like a StormTooper!
Red Bull Racing - Wings For Life 5 - a show car of last year’s model, shining like a shilling under these ultra-bright lights.
Red Bull Racing - Wings For Life 6 - the next batch of Lewis Hamiltons or Sebastian Vettels?
Red Bull Racing - Wings For Life 7 - Adrian Newey’s office, featuring his drawing board.
Red Bull Racing - Wings For Life 8 - not a bad thing to have hanging on the wall in the reception! This was where we gathered prior to the tour - and where we got our DC signed caps :o)