The purpose of this blog is to inform those who are interested about my journey as one of three students from around the world who earned placements at Infiniti-Red Bull Racing as a result of the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy. Family, friends, colleagues, aspiring engineers, and any other followers are welcome to visit this page and, if desired, give me feedback or ask questions. It is an effort to streamline documenting the next 12 months for all of these varying audiences, some of which do not participate in social media.

I have never written a journal, never written a blog. This is a first for me. This being the most meaningful and fantastic opportunity I could ever dream of, I would like to share best I can the details of what goes on in my day-to-day during the academy. I am incredibly honored to have won a placement at Infiniti-Red Bull Racing, and I seek to make this opportunity worth everything it possibly can be.

I will write once or twice a week, depending on the accumulation of events and catching up on the previous few days. If you'd like, you can sign up for email notifications for when I create a new post! See the link toward the bottom of this page. I hope you all enjoy, and thank you so much for visiting!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Catching up!

Wow, it’s been a bit too long!  I’ve slacked off a bit lately, as it’s been hard to get myself to sit down and write, so I apologize for that.  Time to catch up on November!

Actually, let’s go back to the end of October.  On Halloween Friday, I had race ops support with the team at the factory for the US Grand Prix.  Of course Friday was just the first two practice sessions, but it was great to see the buzzing atmosphere in Austin, Texas.  That’s definitely on the top of my list of cities to get to at some point, as well as to go see the wonderful Circuit of the Americas racetrack. 

How much more American can you get??

The following morning, Will, Jason and I headed out to do a little Halloween party shopping.  The three of us had decided to host a Halloween party at our flat Saturday evening with a bunch of people from Infiniti Red Bull Racing and some other friends.  We ended up at a warehouse with an upstairs office for what seemed to be custom-tailored costumes.  Weird.  Will made friends with this skeleton.

Will's new best friend!

The Halloween studio...

After looking through the computer rather than going for the custom choice, they both picked out some excellent bargain costumes.  Will was some sort of weird top hat bloke, which he ended up taking a step further later with a zombie-esque white face treatment.  Jason decided to go for the good ol’ American cowboy look.  I already had my American football stuff back at the flat, being the boring cheapskate that I can be.  Thanks to Sam, though, I was able to wear his football pads, which made it much more fun.

Will and I headed back to the factory in the afternoon to support the race.  The time difference was strange to deal with that weekend, because British Summer Time (as they call it here) ends a week earlier than Daylight Savings Time in the United States.  So on Saturday, we in the UK were 6 hours ahead of the local time in Texas, but come Sunday, we were 7 hours ahead.  Anyway, Will and I supported P3 and qualifying.  Vettel had to start from pit lane due to an engine change to his sixth power unit, which goes beyond the season allowance of five engines.  So the focus for the entire weekend was on the race pace rather than qualifying, which due to the penalty would have no effect on his starting position.  Ricciardo meanwhile qualified in fifth position.

Immediately after finishing our tasks with race support, a bunch of us headed back to the flat, where things were just about underway.  Long story short, a lot of fun people showed up, everybody in costume.  Freshly carved pumpkins, misplaced keys and wallets, American drinking games with about 400 red solo cups and sing-a-longs with Toby Keith, a (clearly unwarranted) noise complaint, a horrible explanation of Cards Against Humanity, late night pizza…we had a great time.

The lone picture from our party

The next morning, we cleaned up from our shenanigans (cue the Super Troopers quotes) and recovered in time for the race.  Of course, Jason and I couldn’t help but watch the race in cowboy hats in the spirit of our home race.


Meanwhile, Ricciardo got in the spirit with this awesome ‘stache.

Ricciardo said the reason for the 'stache was in keeping with Austin's slogan, "Keep Austin Weird"

Seb's awesome helmet design for the weekend 

Ricciardo used his ‘stache power, errr I mean talent, to pull out a third place finish behind the two Mercedes drivers.  Vettel continued to struggle a bit, finishing in seventh.

Ricciardo captured third place at COTA

On Monday, it was back to work… which really feels tremendous to be excited about.  And I got my first designed part back that week!!  That was an awesome moment.  It’s nice to vary up the work in vehicle dynamics with a bit of mechanical design, and it feels great to own something tangible.  I’ve hit a pretty sweet spot as far as my job goes, being able to do a variety of interesting things, including projects away from a computer screen.  Getting to use wrenches (sorry, I mean spanners) and fabrication tools is something I didn’t expect I’d get to do when joining the vehicle dynamics team!

On Wednesday, November 5, it was Guy Fawkes day.  I didn’t know much about it until I heard about it on Tuesday.  Fireworks were going off all week, and there was a huge show in London that I wasn’t able to make it to.  Makes sense given that one of its aliases is Firework Night.  Interestingly, the holiday traditionally celebrates a failure; specifically, it celebrates the failed conspiracy to assassinate King James I in 1605, in which Guy Fawkes’ arrest on November 5 was the pivotal turning point.  Bonfires are the more traditional way to celebrate, but who doesn’t love a good fireworks show?

The mask used in V for Vendetta is a Guy Fawkes mask, now often used as a symbol against tyrrany

The following weekend, November 8-9, was the Brazilian Grand Prix, the penultimate race for the year.  Jason and I went to race support on Saturday, his first time as a part of the action.  Being that close to everything is really intense, and it doesn't get any less special every time we step in that room.

For us, the first and third sectors of Interlagos are difficult to do well in compared to the Mercedes-powered teams, as the advantage of the long straights for the higher power teams outweighs the aerodynamic benefits of the long sweepers.  Jason and I helped with P3 and qualifying, with Vettel qualifying sixth (behind five Mercedes-powered teams, surprise) and Ricciardo ninth.

Before the race on Sunday, Jason and I went into London, as Sam was generous enough to give us his tickets to go to the NFL game that night at Wembley!  Thanks again, Sam!  The Cowboys would be taking on the Jaguars.  But first, we headed to the Tower of London, a medieval castle square in downtown London where the crown jewels are held, to see this amazing sight.

The sea of poppies at the Tower of London

It was Remembrance Sunday.  This is the last Sunday before Remembrance Day, which falls on November 11, the day World War One ended.  The holiday serves a very similar purpose to Veterans Day in the United States, which is also celebrated on the same day.  This sea of red is a bed of ceramic poppies, a trademark of The Royal British Legion, individually staked into the grassy moat.  Nearly 900,000 of them!  The poppies are sold (also in other various and less expensive forms) as a fundraiser for members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, as well as their families and dependents.

Across the street from the Tower of London is this, the WWII portion of Tower Square Memorial at Trinity Hill Garden.  24,000 names of soldiers who perished at sea are inscribed in bronze plaques throughout a sunken garden.

After that, Jason and I went back to the Sports Bar & Grille in the Marylebone area (the same one we went to with Christoph to watch the USC game a while back) to watch the race since it was a few stops short of the stadium and a good a place as any to grab some drinks and food.  All over the place, people were in random NFL jerseys as they got a few beers before the game.  We met some other American guys abroad for work or visiting for the game, and everybody was in a great mood.  The race in Brazil was fun to watch there.  The weather forecast had played games all weekend, and a race at Interlagos in the rain would have been very interesting, but it never happened.  I won’t go into tremendous detail this time.  Sadly, Ricciardo retired after 39 laps due to a catastrophic suspension failure.  Vettel went on to finish fifth.

After the race, we rushed over to the game as we were a bit late.  That timing was a bit unfortunate, since we missed some good pre-game shows.  The Jaguars were heralded as the home team in London, and it seems as though they’re being tested to be THE London team if the NFL decides to expand internationally with some permanency.  It’s hard to say how everybody feels about that, and it’s a pretty complex situation.  What’s undeniable, however, is the number of people who were thrilled to go watch a game there.  The stadium was electric.

A packed stadium watches the Cowboys kick off to the Jaguars after a Cowboys touchdown

There were some awkward bits to it, though.  The flags said #BEJAGUARS for some reason, and though I’m a fan of a good drum line, the ultra-hyped loudspeaker announcements of the Jaguars’ drum line team (new to me for the NFL) every time they’d perform during a break became a bit weird.  In defense of the flags, the Brits do love their flags and banners.  On cue, the fans would wave them like they were going to war.  Well maybe not that crazy, but it was impressive how enthusiastic the crowd was about it.  Can’t hate that!  Oh, and there was a huge crowd wave which went around the entire stadium what had to be 5 or 6 times.  The crowd was great! 

Of course, as a Giants fan (though we suck this year, speaking of the Jaguars), I despise the Cowboys.  Unfortunately for me, there’s not much of a chance for Jacksonville to beat Dallas.  On the other hand, it’s always fun to root for the underdog.  There was a lot of scoring, so the game was really fun to be a part of.  The final score was Dallas 31, Jax 17.  Jason and I collected a bunch of flags before leaving at the end of the game, which was a madhouse.  Police would only let so many people go into the underground station at once to avoid any chaos.  It was actually pretty well organized, compared to any viable alternative.  On the overground train back to Milton Keynes, we shared a coach with some hooligans who, despite being funny at times, were generally a little overly-obnoxious and made for a long ride home.  What a day!

Again the following day, it was back to the office.  Later in the week, I had an eagerly anticipated visit to look forward to!

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