GPUpdate goes behind the scenes at Red Bull
24 June 2013 – Going behind the scenes is a rare occurrence in the secretive world of Formula 1. Yet, last Friday, GPUpdate.net was one of a select few outlets given the opportunity to journey through the heart of the Red Bull operation in Milton Keynes.
As part of the team's Openhouse event, also attended by two lucky GPUpdate.net competition winners, leading staff members were on-hand to discuss their roles during what has been an unrivalled era of success. From an eye-opening pit-stop experience to the processes behind sending a large crew to 19 Grand Prix circuits around the world, all angles were covered by the reigning triple World Champions.
First on the list was an overview of fitness. Bernie Shrosbree, who has worked with World Champions Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, demonstrated a variety of exercises and visual techniques drivers use to stay in peak condition throughout the season. Balancing on a gym ball sounds simple enough, but when sizeable weights and a g-force simulating band are thrown into the mix, the situation quickly changes.
It was also reiterated that top-level fitness stretches beyond the cockpit in modern-day Formula 1. "Trips to the pub are a thing of the past for the pit-crew," explained Shrosbree, referring to the ever-increasing demands imposed upon them. Two-second stops not only require incredible levels of concentration, but also great strength. Holding a Pirelli tyre at arm’s length is no mean feat, while a wheel gun that is constantly trying to escape the hands of its owner compounds the challenge.
With a mock-up pit-box on show, GPUpdate donned gloves and got to work. A best effort of 7.5 seconds was someway short of entering the record books, but respect for those undertaking the job certainly rose. It is not even worth pondering the potential outcome amid baking temperatures and under the pressure of an active pit lane…
A visit to the hidden-away Operations Centre followed, where a mere three million race simulations are carried out before each Grand Prix. Will Courteney, Head of Race Strategy, explained: "My job is to get the most out of the car I am given by the design and engineering team." It sounds relatively simple when stated in such a calm manner, but instant calls amid ever-changing conditions are far from straightforward.
Two scenarios, during the closing stages of a Grand Prix at Silverstone, were soon played out by Courteney, with a crucial tyre choice sitting ahead for the gathered group of media and prize winners. Let’s just say a certain young German would have been extremely unhappy with the decision made by the majority of the room.
As the factory marathon continued, a rather pleasant surprise arose in the form of a mould for the RB10 chassis. Hot off the production line and lying bare, we may just have seen the beginnings of another Adrian Newey masterpiece. There was also plenty of work going on in the race bays ahead of next weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone. After highlighting the stresses of the current Formula 1 calendar, Team Manager Jonathan Wheatley ran through what has been "quite a lazy" post-Canada turnaround, with both race chassis being gradually assembled by a handful of mechanics. Also present was a dedicated pit area, occupied by an RB8, where crew members put in hours of practice - from both the left and right - to hone their skills.
A conversation with Al Peasland, Head of Technical Partnerships, then covered the challenge of ensuring that all cars, related parts and team members arrive at each race venue without issue. Described as similar to organising a holiday for a large family and group of friends, a true sense of the background efforts are realised.
Peasland was also eager to point out the make-up of a modern-day Formula 1 car, alluding to more than 7,000 pieces. With this fresh in his mind, he grimaced when talking through governing body the FIA's stringent crash tests to validate parts, stating that "thousands of Red Bull pounds" are lost in the space of a few seconds.
Mark Webber and Christian Horner then arrived to address the crowd, the latter having flown in from Paris after the launch of Renault's 2014 engine. While assessing the sport's current standing, Horner stressed his desire for the regulations to be relaxed, jesting that Mercedes has aided his mission with its private tyre test in Barcelona.
As the day drew to a close, an opinion already held became even stronger. Unlike a selection of its rivals in the Formula 1 pit lane, Red Bull’s intense desire to succeed is not overshadowed by a cloud of seriousness, but a true sense of fun, energy and compassion, something that makes its recent success all the more impressive.
And, after the first seven races of 2013, the quadruple double is a tantalising prospect.