WORLD champion Sebastian Vettel says a lot has changed since his first trip to Red Bull Racing’s factory in Milton Keynes back in 2005.
The 24-year-old became the youngest ever two-time F1 world champion two weeks ago in Japan, and wrapped up the Constructors’ title for the team in South Korea last Sunday. And he made an emotional return to Milton Keynes on Wednesday to celebrate with the mechanics who make the cars tick.
In three years with Red Bull Racing, Vettel has won 19 races and two world titles, and was looking forward to meeting up with his team back at the factory after a long time away.
He said: “I’m extremely excited to see the guys from the factory in particular. I saw a few of them when I came in, and we are all excited to have won it. The feeling is getting better every day.”
He also recalled how much things have changed since his first visit to the Tilbrook factory where his and Red Bull’s dreams were made into reality.
He said: “The first time I was here was in 2005. I was 18 years-old, just got my driving licence, and said ‘now we have an F1 team, I’d like to take the opportunity to have a look around!’
“So I drove over from Germany, came across the channel and had a little tour! I remember when I drove back, I had the Red Bull hat, the team shirt and I was so excited!
“Back then, I was in F3 and F1 was something I was only dreaming of. That was my first visit and then when I came back, I was in F1 and driving for the team.
“Remembering back to 2005, a lot of things have happened, the team has expanded and there are so many more people on board. It’s incredible to think now I am one of the drivers.
“And when you put things into perspective, you realise how much we have achieved.”
Designer Adrian Newey also recalled how much needed to change when he arrived with the team late in 2005 from rivals McLaren.
Newey, widely regarded as the best designer in the industry, was used to having everything in place for him when he arrived at a new team, but admitted he had to make a lot of changes to the way the young team was organised behind the scenes before they could even consider seeing any success out on the track.
Newey said: “When I joined, we had the Jaguar employees from the take over. Christian had started appointing some key people, but we have worked very hard to get people to gel and work well together. It took time to get that working relationship and infrastructure together.
“In the early years, 2007 and 2008, we weren’t quite there, and that was the key difference when I joined Williams and McLaren, who had already won championships and had it all in place.
“When I first came here, I tried to treat it as a design-based job. After a few months, we realised that wasn’t working because we didn’t have the right things in place.”
Now everything is working. Newey is enjoying the success and thinks the team is among the best he has ever worked with.
He added: “We’ve managed to achieve a fantastic working atmosphere, everyone has a smile on their face. And the unpaid overtime hours our staff have put in is absolutely phenomenal and that is born out of passion. It’s a great feeling to be here.”
Team principal Christian Horner also heaped praise on his team back at the factory, saying that the atmosphere among the Milton Keynes workers is excellent, with everyone keen to succeed for many years to come.
He said: “It’s phenomenal to every team member here to have achieved everything that we have in a relatively short space of time.
“A lot of people questioned Red Bull’s motives when they first came into F1. We retained the core values of doing things differently, our own way and retained a sense of fun.
“You only have to walk around here to feel the atmosphere that exists throughout the team. It’s not just what you see on a Sunday afternoon, but all the guys and girls behind the scene who put in thousands of hours of overtime because of the passion and drive they have to create two of the fastest cars in the world.
“It’s about having the right people, backing them to do the right job and making sure everything is in place for them to be able to do it.”
But while there are still three races to go before preparation begins for the 2012 season, the team were pleased to announce a special treat for F1 fans in their home town.
On Saturday, December 10, Vettel will be driving a Red Bull car around the street of Central Milton Keynes to celebrate retaining both world titles with the fans. More information will be made available nearer the time.