Infiti-Red Bull Racing were friendly enough to have our own Keith Morgan out to Spa for this year’s 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, where he sipped and snacked with Europe’s highest class and sat down with four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel.
He also took a tour of the Infiniti-Red Bull factory in Milton Keynes, England – a top-secret palace worthy of 007 himself. Shaken, not stirred, folks.
Here are some of Morgan’s sweetest snaps from his visit across the pond. You can read his full feature on the Belgian Grand Prize and the Infiniti-Red Bull factory on Driveway Canada.
It is a certainty that the rapid-fire experimentation that is going on in F1 will result in improvements to our everyday cars…
Even if you squint while looking at the Hybrid gas-electric car on your driveway, you likely have a hard time imagining it is anything like an F1 race car.
However, the new advanced hybrid technology at play in this 2014 season means that Formula 1 has never been closer to your driveway.
The car power units are 1600cc turbocharged V6 engines with direct fuel injection. They have to complete each race with 35 percent less fuel, with a maximum fuel load of 100kg (not litres) and the fuel flow is restricted to 100 kg/hour. That would mean your favourite driver would bow out half way through without further engineering help.
In addition, the power units have two electric motors, one linked directly to the turbocharger, the other working in the same way that the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) used to do. The result is a combined maximum power output of around 760bhp, which is similar to the output of the V8 cars of last year.
It is a certainty that the rapid-fire experimentation that is going on in F1 will result in improvements to our everyday cars. That’s the beauty of this highly competitive sport that is so geared to winning. Changes come faster because there’s no chance to undertake testing that takes an age under normal testing.
Last year, when I visited the Monaco Grand Prix as a guest of the Infiniti-Red Bull F1 race team, I chatted to Infiniti engineers who marvelled at the pace of improvement. Said one Infiniti engineer: “They do things so much more quickly than we can do under normal development processes because they have to. And the changes they make are so thoroughly tested on the track. It points two ways: sometimes what they do shows us the way to go but also the way not to go!”
Hong Kong-based Infiniti has made a very shrewd move in tying itself to the F1 team and particularly the reigning F1 champion Sebastian Vettel. The German racer is the marque’s Director of Performance. His association goes far beyond the typical celebrity endorsement, for he takes on a literal hands-on-the-wheel approach to his role.
Last year, I drove with Vettel on the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France. He talked enthusiastically about how he hoped to influence future Infiniti design and performance. At trackside, Infiniti personnel were impressed with his ability to tell them what changes they needed to make to its set up after only a couple of laps of the track.
He has played a significant role in the development of the compact Q30, which should surface later next year. He has already left his mark on the all-new Infiniti Q50 sport sedan and sports car enthusiasts pray a high-powered ‘Eau Rouge’ version of the car will hit the production line.
Now if I were a betting man I would say confirmation of production might be soon. Yours truly, will join the team again next month at the Belgian Grand Prix, at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps… location of the famous ‘Eau Rouge’ corner. We will drive Q50s from the south of England, through the Euro Tunnel and on to Spa.
Immediately prior to the race weekend, yours truly will join international journalists in a behind-the-scenes visit to the team’s UK base in Milton Keynes. There we will learn something about the fast track work they carry out on the F1 cars. I suspect we will get a peek in what is in store for that car on your driveway and you will read about it here.
Driveway editor Keith Morgan took a couple hot laps with F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and former Formula 1 racer David Coulthard, while the two of them and their Red Bull-Infiniti team were in Toronto before heading off to the Montreal Grand Prize in Quebec.
It was the second time Morgan had ridden with Vettel, and the second time their meetings have crossed just before Seb has finished on an F1 podium.
“It’s all down to you,” the champ said, while taking Morgan on a windy, whipping turn around the track at Bowmanville, Ontario.
Videos: Keith Morgan, Driveway
I keep hearing TV F1 commentary teams talking about the perfect race in relation to the now four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
As I watched the German driver for Infiniti-Red Bull race team take the chequered flag in India on Sunday, the repeated reference to his perfect race reminded me of another open-wheel racer.
Back in the early 1990s, Vancouver Indy racer Ross Bentley strived for what he called the ‘Perfect Drive’, not on the track but on the roads of B.C.
Ross, now coaching race drivers and street drivers in Washington state, always told me that he found the racetrack a safer place to drive. On the track he pretty much knew what other drivers were going to do, whereas drivers on the street were very unpredictable.
And I was reminded of that the other morning when a young driver whizzed by me in the curb lane, then cut in front and crossed two more lanes to turn left at an intersection just a block ahead. Of course, he didn’t signal when he got there, either!
Ross devised a little game that he played every day while travelling to and from work across town. The Perfect Drive Concept was designed to help drivers concentrate and I can’t help think it would be a great game for us all to play some 20 years on from when he first outlined the idea to me.
“The idea is to drive smoothly at a constant speed with minimal braking,” explains Ross, who tells me he still tries to achieve the Perfect Drive daily.
“To do so, you must anticipate light changes and ease off when you approach a stale green. You have to slow in such a way that if your passengers had their eyes closed they wouldn’t be aware of the exact point you stopped.”
Keeping a healthy distance between your car and the one you are following is key. Others do cut into the space but they disappear as fast as they arrive. And even if you ease off to open up the gap again, Ross figured if even 10 cars did that to you and stayed during the average trip you might lose a minute in travel time.
“The Perfect Drive can be ruined by others so I try to figure out what crazy things they might do and adjust accordingly. If I have to brake jerkily in anticipation of the other driver’s move, I don’t deduct any points!”
However, if you hold up traffic or disrupt the flow then you deduct points. If you can let somebody in smoothly or provide an opportunity for somebody else to turn then you’re assisting the flow so he figured that was worth a few bonus points.”
“The Perfect Drive can be different for everybody and you can work out your own scoring technique. I keep it simple and figure if I drop four points then that was nowhere near the Perfect Drive.
I love his final comment: “Oh, and if you drop a point halfway through, you don’t give up and drive the rest of the way like a jerk.”
Give it a try, it’s fun.