Formula One’s return to Europe means a return of the motorhomes, and so for the first time since the Italian Grand Prix last September, we’re able to enjoy the home comforts of the Red Bull Energy Station. This makes everyone very happy.
The Energy Station is part of what Red Bull Racing are. When it first arrived, at 2005’s San Marino Grand Prix, it was a statement from Red Bull, part of an ambitious plan to do things differently: the motorhome would be more than just a few offices and a place for the team to grab a quick bite; it would be open house for the paddock, available as an impromptu studio for broadcasters, fine dining for the media, an event space for the receptions and paddock parties the team intended to host. Today this is the standard – but in 2005 it was trendsetting. It also looked like a spaceship from Close Encounters had landed in the Imola paddock.
There’s lots that we can do with the Energy Station in tow, that we can’t do at the flyaways. The catering is more comprehensive: everything from making our own ice-cream to hosting a la carte dinners for our guests, while the drivers have more personal space to prepare – whether that’s having a shower, a massage or just escaping to a quiet place. There’s also offices for the senior staff, a brilliant coffee bar, two more bars upstairs and a secret draw full of sweets.
Over the past 13 years the Energy Station is much-changed, with the current build being – loosely – the third-generation model. The first Energy Station lasted just one season, swelling in size for 2006 to also accommodate Toro Rosso. More recently there has been a larger outdoor deck added and a new kitchen with greater capacity to keep up with demand.
It isn’t exactly mothballed during the off-season. It lives in a laager near Salzburg with a fleet of other Red Bull hospitality units from various sports and over the winter it’s pulled apart for cleaning, maintenance, repairs and redesigns. Ask the drivers or the senior staff if anything’s changed for this year, they’ll probably say it hasn’t; ask the small army of plumbers, electricians, caterers and riggers who run the unit and travel with the 26-truck construction fleet, they’ll have a different answer.
It’s great having the Energy Station – and the full Energy Station crew – back in harness; it lets us perform at our very best.