The purpose of this blog is to inform those who are interested about my journey as one of three students from around the world who earned placements at Infiniti-Red Bull Racing as a result of the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy. Family, friends, colleagues, aspiring engineers, and any other followers are welcome to visit this page and, if desired, give me feedback or ask questions. It is an effort to streamline documenting the next 12 months for all of these varying audiences, some of which do not participate in social media.

I have never written a journal, never written a blog. This is a first for me. This being the most meaningful and fantastic opportunity I could ever dream of, I would like to share best I can the details of what goes on in my day-to-day during the academy. I am incredibly honored to have won a placement at Infiniti-Red Bull Racing, and I seek to make this opportunity worth everything it possibly can be.

I will write once or twice a week, depending on the accumulation of events and catching up on the previous few days. If you'd like, you can sign up for email notifications for when I create a new post! See the link toward the bottom of this page. I hope you all enjoy, and thank you so much for visiting!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Wrapping Up

As I said in my last post, Seb is off to Ferrari.  But before leaving completely, the team had one last hurrah for him at the factory.  You can see the great guy that Vettel is when he lets his guard down.  as speeches were delivered from Adrian and Christian, his emotions were clearly visible.

Christian joking with Seb at his final factory visit
A couple of awesome videos celebrating his years with Infiniti Red Bull Racing and as a part of the young driver program were played, and it reminded us of his fantastic journey with the team and of the passion we all have for motorsport.  It’s hard to not fall in love with moments captured in images like this one:

Seb bows to his car after winning the 2013 Indian Grand Prix and sealing his third championship

Seb was also presented with a gift basket full of cheeky Italian-esque gifts, including pasta, a red Speedo, an espresso cup, and a typical Italian puff jacket.  One last gift was a statue of a bull commemorating his four world championships.

The team!

After delivering one last message to the team in the race bays of Building 2, Seb stuck around for a while and signed some items for the team.

In addition to a picture of Will, Jason and I alongside Seb, I managed to have my RCVD book signed on what I felt was an appropriate page.

The signed book

The RCVD book is something that means a lot to me in terms of where I am and want to be in my career.  I initially had American Le Mans Series and Indy Car drivers start signing it in 2012 at the Baltimore Grand Prix.  One wrote an inscription that said “NEVER QUIT!”  I don’t know who it was, because at the time I didn’t know who half of the drivers were.  I like the anonymity of it.  It is a subtle thing that means so much to me.  And here I am, a little more than two years later, working in Formula One.

When we were buying things to fully furnish our flat, Will bought this hilariously quirky canvas print of a bunch of meerkats riding scooters somewhere in London.  Why?  Because it’s awesome.  So of course we got Seb to sign that, too.  Why?  Because it’s AWESOME.

Autograph is behind the yellow scooter

His reaction upon signing it was great, by the way.

We along with the placement students took one last picture with Seb before personally wishing him good luck (but not too much) in his new endeavors.

Placements with Seb

That was a couple of weeks ago now.  Later in the work week, we had a silly jumper (ugly sweater type of thing in America) day at the office.  Nothing needs to be said other than Sam bought the exact same jumper.  That was unfortunate and hysterical.

"You've got to be kidding me."
Despite the fun and games of the silly jumper day, we didn’t lose focus…there was serious work to be done as we push forward preparing for the next season.  I will say that the lightness added by things like the jumper day contributes to a really happy workplace and substantive relationships with colleagues.  You know, where we can talk about something other than engineering and work.  It’s been great to get to know a lot of the fantastic people around the office.

Then, early Saturday morning, we received some depressing news.  Two cars were involved in a ram-raid on the lobby of Building 1, where we have a significant portion of our trophies on display for the public in a beautiful cabinet.  The burglars were able to violently break in and loot the factory of more than 60 trophies.  Some of them were replicas, thankfully.  To the burglars, they’re worth just about nothing melted down.  There are other possibilities, I suppose, but any way you slice it, it’s ridiculous and perplexing.  They mean nothing to the burglars, but they mean a great deal to the team.  They represent the huge amount of work and dedication and passion that has gone into securing each and every win.  I feel awful for the men and women of Infiniti Red Bull Racing for the actions of these lunatics.  And I feel sorry for those who will not be able to experience the awe and inspiration at the factory in the future, as this likely means less access will be granted to the public.

Seb reminiscing over the trophies, pre-ram raid

Later, Christian would sum it up in the best way.  This may not be a perfect quote, but it was along the lines of, “We’ll just work hard and fill the trophy cabinet back up.”  Hell yeah we will.

At the risk of being chronologically out of order, this past Tuesday, we found out that 20-something trophies had been found dumped in Horseshoe Lake near Sandhurst, over an hour south of the factory in Milton Keynes.  The intent to melt the trophies down for the metal seems to be rather clear now.  We’re glad to have the ones back that we’ve managed to get.  The goal is still to retrieve the rest of the trophies and to make replicas of the ones we are not able to get back.

On a happier note, Hope came back on Saturday!  Saturday night was the Infiniti Red Bull Racing Christmas party, and Hope came as my guest.  Introducing her to a lot of my colleagues was fun, and Will, Jason and I along with several other coworkers and significant others had a fantastic time partying together.  The party was my first official work Christmas party, and what a way to do it!

Hope and I enjoying our night with the rest of the team

First of all, it was held at Silverstone in the pit building, and since it was a celebration of 10 years of racing, cars from every year were on display throughout the entrance and two giant party rooms.  The four championship winning cars were hung from the ceiling, the most incredible party centerpieces pieces I’ve ever seen.

Presentation wasn't so bad

And balloons on balloons.  Because balloons.


In addition to copious open bars and lounges placed around the rooms, there were four national-themed food stations with accompanying festive entertainment in celebration of important moments throughout the team’s history.  A Chinese noodle bar, Texan-style American food, Japanese sushi, and Indian curry were the major offerings.  I frequented the sushi bar.

The live DJs and other entertainment offerings were phenomenal.  Made available for us was a pair of sumo wrestling suits, Infiniti Red Bull Racing slot cars, a mechanical rodeo bull, and a row of racing seats and steering wheels with PS4’s featuring racing games.  Among other buddies of mine, Gareth and Will gave the sumo wrestling a shot.  Too funny!

Hilarious.  Will's suit may be backwards...

Later in the night, much to the embarrassment of my girlfriend, I let the American country boy out in me and got a 33-second ride on the bull.

Yeehaw!  33 seconds!

Adrian and Christian made a couple of congratulatory speeches to the team, acknowledging the unfortunate events of the previous night and giving us rousing motivation to fill the cabinet back up.  We watched a couple more awesome end-of-season videos to reflect on the team’s accomplishments, Ricciardo shared some thoughts and smiles, and Kvyat, Autosport 2014 Rookie of the Year, got a very warm reception.  It really is a great team to be a part of, and the dialogue from those guys along with the superb video reflections made for an absolutely awe-inspiring atmosphere to continue the party.

Christian asking Kvyat some questions about his upcoming first season with Infiniti Red Bull Racing

Afterward, the stage featured a concert delivered by Soul II Soul and Jess Glynne.  Don’t know them?  A quick YouTube search should fix that for most of you.  Both have topped charts, Jess this year.  You don’t get that at every work Christmas party.

We all had an epic time.  What a phenomenal party and an unforgettable night!  It was great to be able to share it with our friends and significant others.

End of the night and still looking good :)

The following day was a bit of a recovery day, no surprise.  We all reflected on the crazy night and shared a lot of laughs while relaxing and watching some movies.  Hope and I enjoyed a couple more days together before she had to leave.  We worked out together and watched Lone Survivor, a war movie based on the incredible book by Marcus Luttrell which tells his first person account of one of the most devastating losses in US Navy Seal history.  I was somewhat disappointed in the theatric as it lacked the completeness of the scope of the book, but I guess that’s hard to do at any in-depth level comparable to the book.  Anyway, it’s a good read, and both the film and book highlight the dilemma of the sometimes unilateral aspects of the rules of engagement as well as the admirable nature of the ancient ethical code, Pashtunwali.  I won’t spoil the book and movie by explaining it.

Some would expect things at the factory to slow down during the offseason; in reality, that’s when it gets even busier.  Late nights and weekend work has been the norm as we get ready for the next season of racing.  It never stops, and that’s where the excitement and vigor we have for our jobs becomes apparent.

In the simulator, I got a chance to work with Kvyat.  From my limited experience last week, he’s a great driver to work with.  He’s only 20 years old, seems like one of the guys, and his talent is incredible.  I’m fortunate to get a chance to work with the drivers directly, and I look forward to the opportunities I will have to interface with them.

Late Friday night, it was more movies!  I went with a few of the guys to see the third movie in the Hobbit trilogy.  In an effort to not make this post about movie reviews, I’ll just say it’s got some stunning visuals.  Go see it.  After the movie, we all went to a bar-restaurant in the shopping center and grabbed a couple of beers and hung out for a bit.  Gareth reminded Jason and I of the meteor shower that night, and we were game for some star gazing.  It wasn’t quite the dazzling show it was made out to be in the predictions on the internet, but we still got a chance to see nearly a dozen shooting stars.  A little after 2am, the predicted peak of the shower, we were quite nearly miserably cold, we hopped back in the car and went home.

On Saturday, I headed to London to meet up with some friends and finish up Christmas shopping.  I didn’t end up exploring too much more than I’ve already seen, but I first went to Covent Garden and then to the market there.  It’s the first time I’d seen that area in the lead-up to Christmas.  Spectacular would about sum it up.

Christmas definitely took over the Covent Garden Market, and it looked beautiful!

So many street performers!  I didn’t hang around for an appreciable length of time to see them in any detail, but it’s a significant aspect of London, especially now with the increased tourist industry during the holidays.  There were also some temporary street food vendors set up under tents.  The elaborate spreads of various ethic foods were mouth-watering. 

I went in for the chicken and chorizo

The food and variety of people at the market reminded me how multicultural London is, being one of the main hubs of Europe.  I absolutely relish that.  There’s so much to be learned from other cultures, and it’s a great opportunity to experience some new things here.  Every day I’ve traveled through the city, I’ve heard at least half a dozen different languages being spoken.  I’m feeling the itch to learn a new language myself.

I then went to meet Tommy, a buddy of mine who is on assignment in London for the next few months.  He was one of our drivers at Terps Racing, and how Terps Racing got acquainted with him is sort of funny, if not weird.  We need four drivers for every competition in Formula SAE, and one who was planning on coming to competition ended up not being able to do so…something we found out with only a couple of months before the competition if my memory serves me correctly.

On our way through the parking lot we use at the University of Maryland, a bunch of us saw a nice Honda S2000, spec’d out for SCCA autocross.  We had no idea whose car it was.  FSAE and Formula Student are indeed autocross style racing competitions, so another member of the team left a Terps Racing business card on the windshield with a message that essentially said, “If you’re interested in driving, call us.”  It turned out that Tommy was an eligible student since he was seeking a Master’s Degree in fire protection engineering at UMD.  We threw him in the car, he drove well, and we took him halfway across the country to Lincoln, Nebraska to drive for us in June.  So yeah, we left our number on Tommy’s windshield and managed to pick up a driver.

Tommy driving his S2K, the car whose windshield we stuck our phone number on...
Tommy driving the TR14 in Nebraska

We met up at the Seven Dials since that was close to a bunch of pubs and to where he lives at the moment, and we walked around for a bit before ending up at a pub in Covent Garden.  We sat outside at a table for a bit and caught up on what each other have been up to since the summer and our respective UK experiences thus far.  To get some food, we headed to a Colombian style bar restaurant nearer to Soho.  The place was called Salsa, and Tommy said that he was going to be taking up salsa dancing lessons there, some of which we saw going on.  We’re both what you would call physically challenged on the dance floor haha, and to me, learning to salsa is badass in the most gentleman sort of way.  I’ve got to give some props to Tommy for taking on that challenge.  We shared a couple of Coronas and more catch up talk before heading our separate ways.

For me, it was off to Harrod’s again.  I got the rest of my Christmas shopping done and enjoyed the jaw-dropping technology room with £35,000 4K resolution televisions and incredible home theater systems, as well as £8,500 pieces of beautiful carbon fiber luggage.

Pretty nice carbon work

And maybe I eyed the incredible sushi bar...

After checking out, I went off to meet Olga and Szymon again, this time on Liverpool Street.

We met at Dirty Dick’s, a pub right near the tube station, just shy of 8pm. The two of them are a joy to hang out with.  I intended to make it back for the last Virgin train at 9:43 (something I learned about when Hope visited), but we ended up having a lot of fun there and hung out ‘til nearly midnight.  Luckily I caught the last London Midland train home, ending yet another great day trip to London.

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