Monday, 22 June 2009

The British GP at Brawn GP

Unable to attend the British Grand Prix this year, I was fortunate enough to get to spend the day at Brawn GP’s HQ in Brackley, just down the road form the circuit.

Brawn put on a family day for their staff, so that we could all enjoy the race together on the big screen, with entertainment for the children, a buffalo spit roast for dinner, and other necessities such as a bar and an ice-cream van!

Two locations were provided for watching the race; outside on a big LCD TV provided by Eddie Stobart (who run the Brawn GP trucks), or inside on projectors where a live timing screen was also available. Fortunately the weather was nice enough for most of us to sit outside (though unfortunately not quite warm enough for Jenson’s tyres), and we all sat around tables drinking Pimms while children enjoyed Punch & Judy, Scalextric, and a Brawn car colouring in competition!

We were following the BBC feed for the race so were still able to enjoy the excellent pre-race show and interviews whilst discussing Brawns chances for the race. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get what we were hoping for with Jenson getting boxed in at the start, and Webber getting the better of Rubens in the pit stops. However, we still cheered when Rubens’ third place became more comfortable after the final round of pit stops, and it all became very exciting when Jenson found some pace in the closing stages!

We may not have got the win we had hoped for, but Rubens still got a big cheer on the podium, especially considering he drove so well despite suffering from acute back pain all weekend.

With the race over it was time for lunch, the previously mentioned spit roast buffalo, provided by Laverstoke Park, Jody Scheckter’s organic/biodynamic farm in Hampshire. It was very tasty, as any of you who attended the Honda open day a couple of years ago will know.

After lunch the children were treated to a disco and bouncy castles while the (supposedly) grown-ups competed against each other on a bungee run! The sun came out, the drinks and the ice-creams flowed, and we all started to turn a bit red while we waited for the race team to return.

From about 6pm-7pm they gradually started to arrive back from Silverstone on a variety of forms of transport; bicycles, motorbikes, cars, and trucks. And then at 7pm we were all ushered inside to watch a short DVD put together by Mercedes, featuring some fantastic shots from the Monaco weekend. One that stood out for me was a slow-motion shot of a bird flying away off the track ahead of the approaching front wing of the car!

When the DVD finished with a congratulations message from Mercedes, Ross Brawn came out onto the stage. He initially got a bit of feed-back from the mic, but decided to have fun with it by swinging the mic around and making a truly awful noise! He seemed very relaxed and thanked all the families for putting up with the hard an uncertain times of the winter months, a message that was echoed by Jenson when he was introduced on stage after a slight delay because according to Ross he was enjoying a beer!

Jenson was quite jokey, and when we were told that Rubens was stuck in traffic Jenson quipped that was him for most of the race! Rubens then arrived and got an even bigger cheer than Jenson when he appeared on stage, and became even more popular when he informed us he was staying on to enjoy the party with us.

We then proceeded to that great British institution; The Raffle! Tickets had been sold to help fund future family events and there were a number of great prizes including Rayban Sunglasses, BTCC and Superbikes tickets, Spa & Golf days and a football prize that Ross announced as Manchester United if you’re lucky or Liverpool if you’re not! The three of them drew the tickets and some of the female winners were lucky enough to get a kiss for Jenson (which Rubens seemed to find highly amusing). Rubens even fancied one of the prizes himself so announced that the ticket he had drawn was ‘Number 23... Rubens... Barrichello..!’

After the raffle there was then a bit of an autograph scrum with both drivers signing anything put in front of them. I got quite close to Jenson before he was whisked off in a different direction, but Rubens was who I was really after and I duly managed to get his autograph on my new iPhone! When I put the shiny white back of the phone in front of him he looked at me to ask if I really wanted him to sign it. When I said yes he took a little more care signing it than with the posters, caps and t-shirts!

It was then announced that the drivers had to leave, but in reality it was only Jenson who left. We all went back outside and my phone enjoyed a moment of fame with many suggestions about how to protect the signature. We then noticed the Rubens was stood very near us chatting to Nick Fry. Chris (my husband) told me that Rubens would have his photo taken with me if I asked, and so we approached with me saying ‘you ask him... you’ve met him before!’ It was at this point that Nick spotted us and tapped Rubens on the shoulder. He was very happy to pose for a photo with me and I thanked him again for signing my iPhone and congratulated him on his podium. A few other people then joined us and I discovered that I had set a trend for iPhone autographs... I believe there are now three in existence!

We then noticed that Ross was not far away, also signing autographs and having photos taken. So off we went to get our phones signed by him too and have our photo taken again. I think Ross must find it quite strange getting almost the same amount of attention as the drivers, and one staff member did get made fun off by the others when he had his picture taken with Ross!

On the way back to our group we then spotted little Antony Davidson, of F1, Le Mans, and Radio 5 Live fame. He was also very happy to pose for a picture, which I tweeted to @5LiveF1 the following day... they replied that he never lets Crofty get that close to him! I think the only opportunity we missed was John Button when we were all clambering for Jenson & Rubens!

After all this excitement we then welcomed the Race trucks back in what must have been a record pack up time, and had a chance to catch up with some of the race team. One guy even said that if I took the back off my iPhone he could take it to the next race to get Jenson to sign it for me! Now you may think me crazy, but I decided that was a bit too risky for the 3G S!

As the sun got lower in the sky we decided it was time to head for home and Top Gear, which turned out to be a rather nice piece of icing to cap the day, with my F1 hero making a surprise appearance!

If you would like to see some pictures from the day visit:


  1. A great account - thanks for that.

    One thing, though - and I know it might be my strange laptop which has previous for being selective about the sites it will let me see, but is that link definitely correct?

    I don't know quite how you are going to top that excellent day for your birthday next week - I hope your husband has got something very special lined up:-)

    The thing that comes across about Brawn (and, if we're honest, those pesky Red Bulls as well) is the close knit team atmosphere - the drivers and Ross are always keen to give the entire workforce credit for their part in all the success.

    I don't think it's strange that Ross gets as much attention as the drivers - he is one of the legends of Formula One. Nobody outside the sport really knows who he is.

    The against all odds success story of Brawn GP has got potential for turning into a movie. I wonder who would play the key characters?

  2. Thanks for the link comment - it wasn't linking to the full url, but corrected now!

    I like the movie idea... we'll have to have a think!

    I know someone at Red Bull who said their party in MK went on until dawn! Hopefully next time Brawn have a family day there will also be a win (or a championship) to celebrate. :)