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Monday 12th December 2011


FEATURE: DRIVING MR VETTEL

Riggers gets to chauffeur (and chat to) a double world champion on the streets of Milton Keynes


So. This is what it feels like to be an F1 driver. Tens of thousands of people clapping, whooping, shouting and cheering as I drive past.

Actually to be strictly accurate this is what it feels like to be an F1 driver driver. Because the adulation of the fans lining the streets of Central Milton Keynes is actually directed five feet back and above my head.

Sitting behind me, you see, is double world champion Sebastian Vettel, and mastermind of god-knows-how-many race-winning GP cars, Adrian Newey. It's the Red Bull 'Homerun', a chance for the denizens of the F1 team's home town to get up close and personal with the cars and drivers that have so dominated the 2011 F1 season.

Sounds and fury

Who's that in the back, Riggers?
Who's that in the back, Riggers?
Webber and Vettel have already wowed the crowd with ear-splitting demo runs (albeit in older-model race cars with V10 motors); now it's time for a slow-mo parade lap so the crowd can get a proper view of the chaps that keep bringing trophies back to Buckinghamshire. And they're perching on the back of a pair of Infiniti G37 cabrios, one of which is piloted by me. Better be careful with that throttle pedal, then...

Such is the volume of the cheering - and such is my nervousness at having millions of pounds-worth of F1 driver and designer a twitch of the throttle away from a serious concussion - that we can't really chat, but I do manage to catch a few words with Webber, Vettel and team boss Christian Horner during the course of the day.

I'm keen to know just how important Milton Keynes is to Red Bull; to what extent this really is a 'home town'.

Easy with the throttle...
Easy with the throttle...
"It's special to be here," Webber tells us. "It's been very good for the local area. I think they've been very proud of what we've achieved. The factory has grown massively over the past few years, because they know that for us to be able to compete at the front the factory has to grow.

"It's also a good opportunity for us to say hello and thank you to the people living close to the team. Obviously the engines (Renault) are French, and Sebastian and I are from Germany and Australia, but everything else is English; designed, built and prepared here. And the guys are very proud of that."

Perhaps understandably for a chap who hasn't spent the best part of a decade living just down the road (as Webber has), Vettel seems less immediately connected to the area. Although he's obviously grateful for a fantastic championship year, and to his fans for their support, he's already looking forward to 2012:

This isn't Monte Carlo...
This isn't Monte Carlo...
"This has been as season that we will look back and be very proud of - and that perhaps hasn't come across during the year," he says. "But already we need to focus on next season - Adrian (Newey) and the guys are pushing very hard to get the car ready for next year and we move on.

"But we look back and we had more than one or two highlights. Races like Monaco, Monza, the championship decider in Japan (and the emotions afterwards) were very special for us - these kinds of things you never really forget."

What the boss thinks
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner is very obviously pleased to be able to celebrate his team's achievements properly, too.

"I would love to allow the drivers to express themselves at the end of the race like we've seen here today," he says. "Let 'em do the donuts, Let 'em do the burnouts, let 'em thrill the crowds. It would be great to see some of that emotion come through at the end of a GP."


Being as we've been trundling around in Infinitis today, I ask him how important Red Bull's new relationship with the Japanese luxury brand is. "Through the partnership with F1, people are starting to get it," he says. "This year Infiniti has had more coverage than any car manufacturer in F1 and it's great to see the brand getting recognition."

So what about road cars (and we mean beyond the FX50 'by Vettel' that we've been chatting next to)?

"We've already been discussing how the Infiniti road cars could benefit from Red Bull F1 technology. We've got Infiniti engineers based at Red Bull HQ in Milton Keynes for the next two years, and we have some of our people working with Infiniti, so we gain from some of their technology and vice versa."


But Horner - like the rest of Red Bull Racing - is much more interested in F1 than anything else. It's not that he doesn't see the value of the relationship with Infiniti, it's just that he's obviously so completely focused on racing. so much so that I ask him what he would do if he wasn't in F1. Something he obviously hasn't even considered.

"Good question. I’d probably be unemployable," he grins. "I dunno – I’ve got a fascination with tractors and with machinery and that sort of thing. I’d probably be a farmer or something like that, but really I’ve got no idea..."

Good thing he's got a third successive drivers' and contructors' world title to chase after, then...


Get your autograph here


We might not have had as much time with the Red Bull stars as we'd hoped, but our hosts from Infiniti did get them to sign a cap. And being the nice friendly website we are, we're going to give it away.

All you need to do to be in with a chance of getting it for your bonce is to send an e-mail to competitions@pistonheads.com with 'Red Bull Cap' as the subject line, including a postal address and contact number.

Entry closes at midday on Friday (16 December) and we'll pick a name from the PH virtual sponsor's cap and notify them by 5pm. Good luck!

   
   
   
   
Author: Riggers