Up the Wooden Hill

It’s the home race: Aston Martin Red Bull Racing at the Red Bull Ring; the race where we’re expected to strut our stuff and host our guests with the maximum pomp and circumstance at our disposal. Some might consider it a problem that we’re trying to do that without the Energy Station in tow. But we have a plan.

For the benefit of those who’ve been living on the Moon, this year the Austrian Grand Prix is the middle event in Formula One’s first-ever triple-header, the meat in a sandwich of French and British Grands Prix. The Energy Station appeared at Paul Ricard, and it will be back at Silverstone, but this week we’re living it up in the Holzhaus (Wooden House), Red Bull’s MotoGP motorhome. It’s like the Energy Station. But made of wood.

For most of us, Christian Kolleritsch is the guy in charge of catering and hospitality on the Energy Station – but his full title is Head of International Motorsports Hospitality, and he leads a double life. When not looking after our home from home, he’s liable to be found ministering to other parts of the Red Bull Family. “I know the Holzhaus well,” he says. “We started with this one last year in Mugello, so I’m very familiar with it. As soon as we saw the triple-header on the calendar we started to investigate the possibility of bringing the Wooden House here.”

While we’ve got similar floor space and catering facilities this weekend, the Wooden House doesn’t have the offices and driver rooms of the Energy Station, so we’ve added our testing trucks to the ensemble, creating something that more or less replicates our normal facilities – albeit with more earth-tones and rather less of the steel-and-glass look.

“There’s several benefits of doing it this way,” says Christian. “We can take the Energy Station directly from Le Castellet to Silverstone, of course – but also we can have a full, working hospitality unit ready to go at the Red Bull Ring from Monday.”

Christian says it would have been possible – “theoretically” – to do all three races with the Energy Station, and several other teams are working their motorhomes hard over these three weeks, but as the home of two Formula One teams, the Energy Station is a bigger and rather more complex beast than the units of our rivals.

“Theoretically, we could have done it,” says Christian, “but I think most of the teams attempting this are right on the limit. France to Austria is very difficult but the big trip of Austria to England… that’s a massive challenge.”

While the motorhome has changed this week, the faces have not. While everybody in F1 works hard, no-one works harder than the paddock’s catering and hospitality crews. They’re the first into the track every morning, baking bread and preparing breakfast, and the last to leave in the evenings – and 21 consecutive 18-hour days is considered a bit much, even in these days of a frenetic F1 calendar.

“We’re calling this a 2.5 crew sequence, with everyone doing two-and-a-half races” says Christian. “What that means is that hopefully everyone will be able to have two days off at one of the three weeks, perhaps getting home on a Monday afternoon and not starting work again until the Wednesday evening.”

We’re all very interested in seeing how things work out with our borrowed home and high-tempo routine. The triple-header may be a one-off to better accommodate the World Cup – or it may be the shape of things to come.