Red Bull Openhouse

The Pits

Harumph. Again.
Valued Member
Well, as you may or may not know, last Friday I was lucky enough to be invited in to the Red Bull factory for the day, to enjoy the hospitality of the Red Bull open day.

The day started, for me at least, with an emergency trip to the barbers, to get rid of the overgrown barnet (had to look my best, which is sadly still not very good!). then it was the small matter of a 20 minute drive to the factory.

I was ushered in to a marquee outside the main building. Inside, I was handed a goody bag, and a pass, indicating me to be in house 3, and an schedule for the day.

There were around 80 people present, so I did some mingling, had a go on the playstation F1 game which was set up, took some photos of the RB6 in the middle of the room, and drank some coffee.

At 10.45 after a brief introduction to the team we handed in our phones in preparation for a tour around the factory.

Walking past the huge (and full) trophy cabinet, we passed through the finger print security, and in to the heart of the factory.

First, we saw the wind tunnel models being made. It looked a little like Blue Peter, but more sci-fi, as we watched technicians cleaning up the parts, and creating a large model (RB10) ready to be transported to the wind tunnel, 10 miles away. From here, we went to the prototype room, where 3d models were being made from resin, using lasers. There were several machines, all working away, all very impressive.

Next stop was the control room. We met the head of race strategy, Will Courtenay. There was a simulation going on, and we were asked to decide what action to take to get the best result, and these were played out. Needless to say we were all wrong!! What was interesting was that the level of analysis that goes in to developing a strategy: they run between 2-3 million simulations, with all sorts of variables to try and work out the optimum strategy, and have these running through the race. There was also a few questions, including an admission of disappointment with a few races, especially Canada last year!

The chap escorting us around explained that the design team turn out 2-300 drawings per week, which then go through CFD, before being modelled and wind tunnel tested, and where necessary run in straight line tests, and then run on friday practice where they have been successful, but only 5-10 of the parts make it to the car from the initial designs!

From here we visited the machine shop, a huge room full of seriously advanced milling machines. Apparently, all parts of the car are now machined from billet metal, as opposed to being cast of forged.

We were then escorted to the clean room, where they lay up the Carbon fibre, and the baking room, where they keep the autoclaves, absolutely huge, and outside there were the moulds for the chassis of the RB10, a shame we were not allowed to bring our cameras.

Moving past the computer room (vast, but limited by the FIA) we visited the actual race bays. Here, several mechanics were working hard on getting the cars ready for the next race, the gearboxes were off, engines were off, and the suspension was being attached. We were in a mezzanine overlooking the bays, there was a Renault V8 which we all had a good look at. At this point, Jonathon Wheatley dropped in, and spoke about his role as team manager, and explained the prep, and the pit stops. We all got to have a go on a gun, and lug a wheel around, and a jack. He also explained just how much work goes in to getting pit stops right, even down to the practice, they practice at both left and right handed circuits, and they also simulate over-runs, and stopping short of the box all at random. They also have a fitness program for all the members of the pit crew.

I managed to get a few minutes with Jonathon to discuss the timing of the car build, including how much of the set up is fixed at the factory (not much) and when (set up data from the simulator comes to the race bays on Tuesday) There are some jobs that they do not like doing at the track (rear heave damper settings etc) as these require major work, including removing the gearbox.

There was a presentation, with Al Peasland (Head of technical partnerships) which covered some high level information about the team. Did you know that there are more than 7000 unique parts on the car, 2000 of which will likely be re-designed through the course of the year, and the car will be around 2 seconds per lap faster at the end of the year than the start.

BBQ for lunch, then Mark Webber dropped in for a few questions, asked by the lovely Lee McKenzie, nothing too strenuous, mine were not asked :( then he signed autographs, and had piccies taken.

Moving on, we were introduced to the pit stop training. In teams of 3, we took it in turns to operate the gun, and wheel on and wheel off. Then it was against the clock. My team recorded a best time of 7,2 seconds. It was surprising how difficult everything is to get right at the same time, especially getting the wheel on, as you cannot get your hand round the back of the wheel, yet you cannot help but hold the rim, and hence getting your finger stuck!

Outside to see Bernie Shrosbree for an insight in to the performance training for the drivers. Sitting on a large ball, with your feet on a small ball, holding weights, pretending to steer whilst some sadist is tugging an oversized elastic band which is tied round your head. Very tricky, but all part of the essential driver training, to ensure that the senses are sharp, and the core is strong. Then there was the importance of focus, and ensuring that the drivers can concentrate on driving hard for nearly 2 hours at a time.

Then back to the marquee for a question and answer session with the boss, Christian Horner. If he was a wrestler, apparently he would be "Hard Hitting Horner" however, much to my regret, I still do not know whether he was upset that his modelling career never took off!!

And then it was all over.

A trip to the shop to get myself a T-shirt, then home.

My main takeaway was how un-clinical a lot of the factory was. the clean rooms were very clean, however, much of the factory was, whilst not exactly messy, was not scrupulously clean and tidy and organised. There were bits of model lying on benches, and moulds and plugs sitting in corridors, but there was an underlying sense of purpose, everyone knew where everything was, and what it was going to do. Also, the sheer amount of work that goes in to getting 2 cars to race every other week, is immense, the machinery used, the number of bits that never make it to the car is also frighteningly large, and this is where the budget comes in handy!

The main thing though, was how welcoming the whole thing was, the marketing guys, Mark and Christian were both very pleasant, and warm, genuinely seeming to enjoy the experience.

It is enough to make me a bit of a Red Bull fan!!

Photos to follow

Thank you for getting this far, unless of course you have just flicked straight to the bottom!!
My pleasure!

And yes, I think it was about the best experience (outside wedding/children etc) that I can recall! a true geekfest!!
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