Sunday 3rd February began at 04:25am in sleepy suburbia, 279 miles north of Red Bull Racing. There’s nothing quite like six hours of British public transport to get you geared up for the launch of a Formula One car. Several cups of tea, three delays and one rather violent case of Christian Horner foot tapping disease later, I made my arrival at Milton Keynes Central station.
In the modest station foyer, there’s a suited man holding a purple plate bearing the Infiniti Red Bull Racing logo. At that moment, it all becomes exceptionally surreal. My fellow guest bloggers echo the oddness of the situation and we share a giggle over the ‘My other car is an RB9’ sticker decorating the back of our chauffeur driven Infiniti. We sank in to the luxurious seats and discussed all things F1 as the slinky hybrid silently cruises towards our destination.
There it was, quietly sitting behind a cluster of leafless trees. A sweeping arc of glass, navy blue panels and a Red Bull logo visible from outer space, the flowing carousel of black, white and silver Infinitis pull us closer to the birthplace of the RB9. This was ‘Charlie and the Better than Chocolate Factory’ stuff.
One by one, the queue of cars dropping off lucky guests by the reception doors thins and it’s our turn to step out and take our first glimpse of the glamorous RB9 launch. The factory’s reception is crowded with cameras, Red Bull drinkers and a trophy ‘cabinet’ to rival all trophy cabinets. For a team that boasts more trophies than we’ve had hot dinners, silverware storage is pretty high on the agenda.
Media accreditation wrist bands received, photographs taken with the groaning trophy cabinet and we’re off to the super-secret warehouse where the RB9 lies in wait as the F1 world gravitates around her. The entrance to said warehouse is a gaping mouth screaming James Bond villain lair but the any-drink-you-want on arrival and handy cloakroom suggests otherwise. Purple is the predominant colour woven in to the carpets, curtains and flamboyant furnishings of the best-night-club-on-earth style bar area; it’s the kind of place almost too cool to exist.
Help yourself to cocktails, a bowl of sushi and more alcohol, and then meander through the crowds to where the magic really happens. The bulky army style truck in the corner of the room seems a bit out of place, but it’s decked out with DJ decks blasting a bass that shakes the floor. We grab a seat while we can; they’re going fast!
Sitting three rows from the stage, you can almost hear the RB9 delicately snoring beneath her velvety purple sheets. Martin Brundle assumes position, introducing “three times world champion, Sebastian Vettel, nine times a grand prix winner, Mark Webber, Christian Horner and Adrian Newey… to unveil the new RB9,” but not before the foursome have left poor Martin hanging on stage. It’s a stunt he later describes to me as “just banter” when we bump into him amidst the flurry of macaroon carrying waiters at the bar. The roll of his eyes and weary breathe of exasperation tells the story of a thousand practical jokes at his expense thanks to his F1 colleagues.
As the cover is lifted, it’s strange knowing I saw the car for the first time along with Seb, Mark and many team members. The RB8 launch which I gawped at on a 3×2” screen with failing Wi-Fi in a university lecture seems a world away. Seb’s playful treatment of the subsequent press conference culminates in a pinkie to mouth gesture (Dr Evil-esque) when quizzed about his plans for world domination, while Mr Newey bashfully assures us the “grey area” of car regulation has nothing to do Fifty Shades of Grey. We believe you, Adrian.
Post-reveal and the cavernous warehouse empties sharpish, journalists hurry to laptops and guests chase autographs. We begrudgingly hitch a lift, chauffeur style, in the car Seb had been whisked away in just moments earlier. It really brought new meaning to Infiniti and beyond.