I recently had an interesting trip up to Milton Keynes for a tour of Red Bull F1’s facility.  As you would expect given F1’s fondness for industrial espionage, security was tight. No cameras were allowed and all phones had their camera function disabled.  Our escorted tour initially took us around the design offices. These were open plan for all to enhance team working, though Messrs  Horner and Newey had their own huge offices. Presumably they don’t need to work in teams.. Interestingly there were three times as many aerodynamasists as there were other engineers.

Moving from area to area via touch sensitive security key pads we were constantly told about what a relaxed and friendly team Red Bull were compared to other teams. The demeanour of the people we met did not suggest that was necessarily the case. Sure, whilst the extreme dress down of the staff and the slight untidiness about the place would bring on palpitations in Ron Dennis, you get the impression that beneath the “hey, aren’t we fun” persona there is a degree of steely and ruthless determination. No bad thing in F1. You don’t win four consecutive F1 titles by being relaxed.

Formerly the home of Jaguar Racing and prior to that Stewart GP, Red Bull’s Milton Keynes HQ still accomodates people who worked for those teams, albeit in a facility now eight times bigger.

Unfortunately when we visited the race bays the current cars were out with only some reliveried older cars on show. I guess they didn’t want us to see the new aero screens shown this week at Sochi.

 

This vertically displayed show car highlights the new Red Bull matt paint finish. I tend to dislike matt paint finishes but it certainly seems to suit the Red Bulls.  Apparently Red Bull repaint the cars for each race to suit the expected climate and light conditions. That way the sponsors’ logos always look the same on TV wherever the cars are in the world and whether the race is a night race or day race. Great attention to detail.

 

 

The vast trophy cabinet on display in the reception of Red Bull F1. The drivers are not allowed to keep their trophies and must hand them over to the team. Red Bull are also so paranoid about their IP they throw nothing away nor do they sell any of their old cars. 

 

The Red Bull trial visor. It looks okay, does not seem to interfere too much with access and if it increases safety surely a good idea?

Red Bull seem to be doing much better this year. Apparently the new Renault engine is putting out substantially more horsepower than last year. You will not, however,  see the name of the engine builder on the side of the Red Bulls, their place having been taken by the wings of Aston Martin.

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Apart from clashing with the Autosport show in Birmingham, this new London show looks promising. It is been many years since there has been a large classic car show in London. Given that the core of the high end classic car market lies in London and the South-East of England, this absence has always struck me as strange.

The new show was held at Excel in London’s Docklands. This is a great venue, easy to get to and with good facilities. As this year’s show was relatively compact it had to share Excel with the Cruise Show and the London Boat Show. I attended on a Friday afternoon and Excel was already busy. I imagine it would have been extremely busy over the weekend.

Whilst the show was much smaller than the NEC Classic Car Show, what it lacked in quantity it made up for with quality. There were no club stands but the organisers showed innovation in how cars were displayed and a large number of very high-end dealers were present. I was able to buy an afternoon only ticket at a much reduced price. This provided plenty of time to see the show. Certainly this year a full day ticket would not have been necessary.

From what I hear, due to heavy ticket discounting,  the show almost certainly made a loss this year . However it was very busy so hopefully it will return again in the future.

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Motor Sport Magazine put on an impressive display at the Show, pairing historic race cars driven by members of their “Hall of Fame” with covers from the magazine showing the cars in period. Here we see Jackie Stewart’s 1973 championship winning Tyrell and Jim Clark’s 1963 championship winning Lotus 25.

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The Motor Sport Magazine pairing here is Mike Hawthorn’s 1958 championship winning Ferrari and one of the clever but flawed V16 BRMs.

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An unusual feature of the event was a central boulevard where every few hours some of the cars on display were run. Whilst an interesting idea, viewing was limited, the exhaust fumes noxious and there was little scope for really demonstrating the cars’ potential. Here a Lamborghini Miura makes a very sedate pass.

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One section of the hall was reserved for Le Mans cars. I never get tired of the sweeping curves of the Jaguar XJR9. This car finished 4th in 1988, the year a similar car won for the Coventry mark.

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A rare Vauxhall Firenze Droop Snoot. Ugly as sin when compared to the contemporary Ford Escort RS2000.

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The £90k MGB. Yes really. Produced by Frontline Developments with a Mazda engine and modern running gear, the car is capable of a sub 4 second 0 to 60 time. But why would you bother? If you want a classic looking car buy a concourse MGB for £30k. If you want a fast car, for that price you could buy a Jaguar F Type R.

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A stunning BMW CSL Bat Mobile.

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There were two other special displays at the Show. The first was a selection of Cars That Changed the World curated by James May. The queues for that display were so long all afternoon that I gave it a miss. The second, probably far more interesting display, was of cars that inspired or were designed by Adrian Newey. Here we see three of the best – Mansell’s active suspension 1992 Championship winning Williams FW14, Mika Hakkinen’s 1998 championship winning McLaren MP4-13 and one of Vettel’s championship winning Red Bull’s.

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Newey’s first F1 car, the Leyton House CG901

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his second World Championship following his convincing win at Abu Dhabi earlier today. Whilst its a shame Rosberg dropped out of contention with mechanical difficulties, it was a relief that the Championship went to the driver with the most wins and that it was not decided by the ridiculous double points system in place for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hammertime! Well done Lewis, Britain's first two time World Champion since Jackie Stewart

Hammertime! Well done Lewis, Britain’s first two time World Champion since Jackie Stewart

Other innovations were more successful. The new hybrid engines are absolutely fascinating and have proved more reliable than anyone would have predicted. I personally do not mind the different noise – I think it sounds like the future.

Despite Mercedes Benz’s crushing dominance it was still a thrilling season. The resurrection of Williams was great to see for all British fans as was the humbling of Vettel at the hands of his Australian team mate. Ricciardo has had a fantastic season, his third in the drivers championship being well deserved. His lack of pretention and easy going nature have already endeared him to the fans. We can expect great things of him next season.  In addition, thanks to the aerodynamic skills of Adrian Newey, Red Bull managed to stay in touch with the Mercedes powered teams, notwithstanding their Renault engines. A remarkable achievement for the team. How will they cope with less of his time next year?

Ricciardo had a great season- a future World Champion?

Ricciardo had a great season- a future World Champion?

Massa has also had a good season. He must be delighted Ferrari let him go. Ferrari’s season has been terrible – an embarrassment to the team who reap the most financial reward from the current system of team financing.  The departure of Montezemolo after so many years is the end of an era.  Rumours abound that Ross Brawn may go back to Ferrari. Might that and Vettel’s arrival be enough to help them out of the hole they are currently in?  McLaren, the second oldest team on the grid, have also had a season to forget.  Ron Dennis has a new Honda engine next season – will it be good enough? Engine aside they have not been competitive with the other Mercedes customer teams, Williams and Force India, both of whom have outperformed the Woking outfit.  Bar a miraculous Honda engine, Alonso is likely to face a tough test on his return to the team.

The administration of the Caterham and Marussia teams was a sad symptom of the increasing cost of F1. The new hybrid engines and the inequity of the current Concorde Agreement between F1’s commercial rights owner and some of the teams led directly to the reduced grid seen in the last few races of the season. Things do not look good for Sauber, Force India of Lotus either. Lotus’ season has been particularly terrible and it seems nothing much can save them apart from a return of Flavio Briatore or some other deep pocket.

After many years of no serious injuries in F1 we were rocked by Jules Bianchi’s terrible accident at Suzuka. Hopefully he and Michael Schumacher, injured in a freak skiing accident earlier in the year, will make a full recovery.

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Last month the RAC club hosted its annual motor sport dinner. Guest of honour was current Red Bull race car designer Adrian Newey. We learnt a great deal about this remarkably successful man. Did you know he was at school with Jeremy Clarkson? That he was expelled for shattering all the ancient stain glass windows in the hall of his school whilst experimenting with the amplifier at a school disco? That he has deigned more British Grand Prix winning cars than any other designer? He is of course a quick driver in his own right and hankers after a competitive drive at Le Mans. When asked what challenges he would still like to try, going back to sports car design was on the list as well as a possible return to the US and the design of Indycars.  What a privilege it was to hear from such a thoughtful and humble man.

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Adrian Newey sitting on his first F1 design, the March 881 / Leyton House. In the background is the 2012 Championship winning Red Bull RB8