On arrival at Silverstone you could be forgiven for thinking the F1 circus hadn't bothered to stray from Valencia. The circuit hadn't seen weather this glorious for decades and the Great British public were making the most of it. Shirts were off, lotion was being rubbed on and beer was being readied.
After a quick drive through the throngs of sun-kissed spectators and various manned checkpoints eventually you find yourself into the paddock - the affluent side of the F1 grid. Those fans fortunate enough to have the money or the contacts to get behind the gates stroll leisurely around the flat pack village rubbing shoulders with drivers both past and present, engineers, designers, pit crew, journalists and anyone else that matters in F1.
However only a few dozen yards from the relative calm of the paddock is the hectic world of the pit-lane. The contrast could not be more stark and as you wander into the back of the garage through the labyrinth of stacked tyres and hastily erected Red Bull branded walls you become acutely aware that you're inadvertently making a nuisance of yourself. “You're a spare part in the machine,” says Steve Nevey, Business Development Manager for Red Bull Racing. “It's like a ballet. You see these guys weave past one another and you feel like you're in the way.” The comparison could not be more apt, as we're ushered into the back of the garage to catch a glimpse of what goes on when the cameras are pointing towards the track you can't help but notice the almost choreographed manner in which everyone goes about their job. Only the occasional nervous glance and slight miscommunication give the game away.
Then again nerves are to be expected. For many of the crew this isn't just any other race, Silverstone is their home Grand Prix. The team is officially based a mere 20 miles away in Tilbrook, Milton Keynes and while many of the staff clad in the now famous blue and red spend most of the season jetting from race to race the Austrian outfit has a distinctly British feel to it. When quizzed about his favourite moment as a member of the Red Bull team David Granger, Website Manager for RBR, barely needs a moment to mull the question over in his head: “Here at Silverstone in 2009. To get a one-two at your home Grand Prix and just dominate the weekend was great.
“We race under the Austrian flag and the Austrian national anthem is played when we win but 98% of the people involved in the team live and work in Great Britain. That's the weird thing about F1, we've got an Australian and a German based in England racing for an Austrian team which has staff from places like France and Poland too.”
Practice one finishes. Vettel first, Webber fourth. The cars head back to the pits and the pace picks up even more as the crew get a chance to practice some stops. Suddenly the pace of earlier work in the garage seems unhurried compared to what's going on in the box just outside. In a few hectic seconds both cars are given a new set of tyres before being dragged back into the garage to be primed for practice two.
As the drivers jump out of their machines and wander out of sight you can't help but wonder what goes through their mind on a race weekend. They're up there with the pit crew when it comes to conveying a sense of normality about the whole situation but surely underneath the blasé body language there's a touch of apprehension? According to Brendon Hartley, reserve driver for Red Bull, there is: “You always get a little bit nervous before a race but it's normal. It shows that you care, it keeps your mind ticking over.”
Despite the fact Brendon has yet to taste competitive F1 action he's more than familiar with the work that needs to be done before a Grand Prix and the atmosphere around the team: “Beforehand I spend a lot of time training. I do a lot of work on the simulator, spend a lot of time going through notes and watching videos. The more preparation you can do the better.
“At Red Bull it's great because the last few years they've had a lot of success and everyone is really passionate. When they get pole in qualifying you can see how much it means on everyone's faces. It's nice to be a part of it.”