Formula One legends Infiniti Red Bull Racing received the council’s highest accolade at a packed ceremony in the Council Chamber on Thursday night.
The prestigious Freedom of the Borough honour was presented to the quadruple and current Formula One Constructors’ Champions, by the Mayor of Milton Keynes, Brian White.
The team received the accolade for the significant impact it has had on the Milton Keynes economy, as well as for bringing positive attention to the borough on an international scale with repeated Formula One success. The team has won 47 grands prix and its driver Sebastian Vettel is a four-times world champion.
In return the council received a stunning Formula One car nose cone.
In accepting the award, a ceremonial scroll and bowl, Team Principal, Christian Horner, said: “This is quite extraordinary. For us to receive this award is something that the whole team is tremendously proud of and on behalf of the whole team based here in Milton Keynes a very, very big thank you for the kind words that have been said tonight.
He added: “It’s with great pride that we’re based in Milton Keynes. We employ just over 600 people - and for us it’s the perfect place to be based.”
Jokingly referring to the Snowdome indoor ski-slope, in the Xscape building, he said: “It was also the only option for an Austrian owned company to establish a Formula One team in the UK where you could actually go skiing at lunchtime – so it was a pre-requisite that we were always going to be based in Milton Keynes.”
He added: “Being based in the city is a huge bonus for us and the vast majority of our workforce are based very locally to here and, of course, so many suppliers associated with F1 are based in the local area.
“On behalf of everyone within the team it’s with huge honour that we pick up this Freedom of the City.”
He was joined by colleague Adrian Newey, the team’s technical director, who stressed their success was always a team effort, praising their burgeoning partnership with the Open University.
In presenting the award, the Mayor praised the team not only for its racing success and the huge knock-on benefits for Milton Keynes but also its inspirational impact on the city.
Councillor White said: “One of the things that’s really inspirational is the way that engineering has been given a boost - the kids want to aspire to be engineers again, thanks to the success of your team.
“It’s an important part of the reason we want to award the Freedom of the Borough - because of that link that you make to the skills of the future and to an aspiration that there is a manufacturing industry in the UK - a sports manufacturing industry in the UK – and that kids can be engineers and its something to aspire to.”
He added: “The current way that you are dominating or have dominated the championship in recent years, particularly with Sebastian Vettel, is one of the great sporting stories and one that we are very proud of in Milton Keynes – that you have actually chosen to be here and to actually have that workforce that delivers it.”
Council Leader, Andrew Geary, added: “I have to say that among the joys and privileges I’ve enjoyed as leader of the council, conferring this honour to Red Bull will rate right up among the very best of them.”
He added: “Formula One has a long and deep history in this area – we’re just a few miles from Silverstone.
“Formula One developing in the area, and moving into Milton Keynes in the way it did and evolving with our city is something we have been rightly proud of.
“The fact that this evolution has led to us being the city that hosts the leading racing team in the world is something that we are rightly proud of.
“We have an aspiration to be an international sporting city, and the part you are playing in that by promoting us around the world is adding massively to that agenda.”
Richard Phillips, managing director at Silverstone, added: “Since 2004 Red Bull has demonstrated a rapid rise to success, and under the inspirational leadership of Christian, the technical genius of Adrian, and the outstanding ability of Sebastian, the team has become a dominant force, winning four consecutive Driver and Constructor championships
“Companies like Red Bull should be applauded – they demonstrate everything that is great in the UK and how proud we are, and we’re very, very proud that they are based here in Milton Keynes.”
And Andrew Jarman, himself an experienced racing driver and director with local engineering and recruitment company TXM, praised the four-year partnership they had had with the team.
He said: “Having worked closely with the team at Red Bull Technology and Infiniti Red Bull Racing for several years now, I would like to personally take this opportunity to congratulate the entire Team for their outstanding achievements and wish them every success for the future.”
Additional tributes were also paid by Councillors Hannah O’Neil, Isobel McCall, John Bint, David Hopkins, Debbie Brock and Lee Barney.
The council has on only three previous occasions granted the Freedom of the Borough, with the honour being conferred upon:
> The Right Honourable The Lord Campbell of Eskan, the former Chairman of Milton Keynes Development Corporation, on March 18, 1982;
> Dr James Charles Marshall OBE, on March 19, 2009; and
> Dame Cleo Laine, on March 31, 2011.
The council also conferred, on November 25, 1998, the honour of Freedom of Entry into the Borough on The Royal Green Jackets (now known as The Rifles Regiment), which allows the Regiment to march through the streets of the Borough in full ceremonial, which includes the Regiment’s band and bugles playing.