Now, at the outset of this report I would really like to tell you the name of the team that I spent the day with. However, because this was testing and because the team didn’t want people to think they offered this to everyone I have been asked not to identify them and I respect their wishes.
So, you’re just going to have to take my word for it that I was there and had a very enjoyable, educational and at times thrilling experience.
It was a day trip that started at 5am at Wellingborough station, both myself and Ian Blackett, boarded a train to Luton Airport Parkway, then a shuttle buss to the airport and then a plane to sunny Barcelona. And yes, it was sunny! 20 degress! We were picked up by one of the team representatives, Ronald, and taken to the circuit.
From the moment we entered the paddock we’d entered a different world. Most of the teams were there as indicated by their herd of gleaming precision parked articulated transport lorries, each with the team logos on the side. On the other side of the paddock, opposite the lorries, the hospitality suits. Each one like a status symbol of the wealth that team has earned over the years. The team that we had come to visit had a substantial structure, as would be expected being one of the top teams.
The paddock was teaming with people, team members, photographers, autograph hunters and the odd famous face floating around. I spotted quite a few faces in the crowd that I recognised; Nikki Lauda being one of them.
In the afternoon we were given a tour of the garage which was an eye opener. We’d seen it on TV so many times but to be there and experience the sounds and smell was something else. The mechanics were all just chilling while the car and driver were out on track getting to know each other. We had headphones on so we could hear what the engineer was saying to the driver. Then the call came “15 seconds” and all the mechanics jumped up in unison, four of them grabbing a wheel each, and running into the pit lane box ready to receive their car and no sooner had they got into position their car and driver sped into the marked box with precision. A quick flurry of activity and the car sped away as though nothing was touched on it where in fact all four wheels had been changed, the side pod checked and the front wing tweaked. Amazing!
Lunchtime was also an experience not to be forgotten. Well, let’s face it I love my food. We were taken into the team’s hospitality structure, seated and then given a menu. This is a different world where people come to talk deals, sponsorships and high level business. But here we were being given the full treatment which entailed a three course meal and fine wine. And while we sat their enjoying our lunch Nikki Lauda was sitting at the table next to us holding court with several people.
During the day, when there was some down time and the teams halted testing to have lunch we were told that we could visit the pit lane. Being a guest of a team meant we would be able to have a little more access to the pits than most so having my photo taken sitting next to one of the cars was quite a privilege. The photo will hang on my wall as a reminder of a great day spent with a top formula 1 team.
Planes, trains and automobiles later we arrived back home buzzing. We’d both had a great day, a day only a few get to experience, a day where we saw glamour, technology, fast cars and famous faces. A day trip to Barcelona. Was is worth it? Oh yes, very much so.
My thanks goes to James McAlpine for making it happen and Ian Blackett for his support. And of course the F1 team for making us so welcome.