FEATURE: DRIVING MR VETTEL
Riggers gets to chauffeur (and chat to) a double world champion on the streets of Milton Keynes
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
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'.
"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:
"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."
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."
"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
All you need to do to be in with a chance of getting it for your bonce is to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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!