Lift Off In Houston

At the beginning of last month we announced that the huge ExxonMobil corporation will become our fuel and lubricants partner in 2017 and today we fired up the partnership in the loudest possible way: by taking Daniel Ricciardo, the mighty RB7 and the equally mighty live demo crew to the ExxonMobil campus in Houston, Texas for a very special live demo.

Daniel flew in from Los Angeles, where for the past while he's been lounging about doing absolutely nothing and enjoying himself... sorry, training harder than an Olympic athlete with OCD and free access to a rowing machine.

Joining the Aussie for the day out on campus was David Coulthard, who jetted in from Miami where last weekend he took part in the Race of Champions. DC's role this time was purely as master of ceremonies for the day.

The campus is a city; it's amazing, bigger than Milton Keynes.

With the two drivers in place and the show car team's mini Mission Control up and running at Exxon's Houston HQ, it was time to give a fair percentage of the companies 7,000 on-site employees a taste of F1 power. Roaring under the campus's impressive central 'Energy Cube' Daniel demonstrated just what the RB7 is capable of, taking the 2011 championship machine to never-before-seen speeds on roads that normally employ a strict 25mph limit.

After three runs across the bumpy surface, Daniel then focused on bringing the noise to Houston with a series of burnouts, showcasing the raw power of the car's V8 engine. It was a fittingly deafening end to Daniel's time in the car.

"You always expect some compromises with these runs, whether it's the surface or the room you've got to work with but it really worked out here," he said afterwards. "I think there was a lot of people here, probably a good few thousand out to watch us, so that was great. It's another city I had not been to and I got to do a little bit of running in an F1 car, so that's great. I think the people who came to see us enjoyed having us here and it's nice to feel welcome when you're on someone else's turf.

Following the demonstration, Daniel joined DC on stage for a quick chat and to greet the gathered employees. He then moved on for a Q&A session in front of 900 guests at the campus Town Hall where he talked through the Team's new partnership alongside Red Bull Racing's Chief Designer Rob Gray and senior representatives of the company.

Daniel also had time for a tour of the factory, which impressed the Aussie greatly. "The campus is a city; it's amazing, bigger than Milton Keynes. The facility they have here is mind-blowing. It's very well designed and architecturally kind of great. And it's just huge! They've got everything here," he said. "We met a lot of the people that have helped create the partnership and we got to drive the car around the campus and give everyone a taste of F1. We also got to see a bit of a 3D simulation and see how some of their work takes place, so it's been cool."

DC was also impressed with the venue. The 13-time grand prix winner had a long relationship with Mobil during his time at McLaren, but admitted that he had never visited the Houston site. "It's my first time here, although I went to [ExxonMobil's facility] on Fairfax before and to a refinery in France," he said. "In my nine years at McLaren I always worked with Mobil and it's a company I know well. I think this is a good opportunity for a new relationship with a team with a younger image and two younger drivers so it will be interesting to see how it develops."

And how did he enjoy acting as MC for Daniel? "Daniel's a lot of fun. He always brings a good energy. As drivers go, he obviously drives very quickly but his personality shines through off track as well and that's important to engage with the younger generations who like... Australian goofballs."

With just a few weeks to go before testing gets underway for the 2017 season, it's good to see that goofball back behind the wheel of an F1 car.