Defending champions Red Bull celebrated not only one, but two achievements at the Bahrain International Circuit. Firstly, Sebastian Vettel overtook Sir Jackie Stewart in the list of all-time race winners. He now stands at 28 wins and at 6th on the table.
Infiniti Red Bull Racing made another bit of F1 history after the team’s win in Bahrain, when Electronic Support Group Leader Gill Jones became the first female member of an F1 team’s technical staff to appear on the podium. (see Q&A below)
There are very few woman in the sport in high positions. Sauber’s team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn, being the highest of them all, hasn’t had the opportunity to collect a trophy although she came agonizingly close last year at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
“It was great to send an important member of our team up today, Gill Jones, who has done an awful lot,” team principal Christian Horner told reporters.
Red Bull top the constructors points with 109 points ahead of Renault and Ferrari who stand at 93 and 77 points respectively.
Q&A with Gill Jones:
Gill, congratulations on making F1 history. It’s a pretty special achievement. How did it make you feel?
It was my 177th race, so it took me a while to get there! For me, as a personal achievement, it’s brilliant, I’m really proud. I’m really pleased to be able to represent the team and also the department I work for – electronics – because I think we play a massive part in the team. Again, being female as well makes it special. So, yes, very proud.
How did you find out you’d been chosen to go up to the podium to accept the constructors’ trophy?
[Team manager] Jonathan Wheatley came on the radio and said Christian had asked for me to go up. It was a massive surprise. I didn’t expect it all, so I was totally unprepared.
Did you get a chance to tell anyone at home you were going up there?
Not at all. In fact, there was a mad panic to get to the podium, because I sat there [in the garage] for a minute before I left… just with my head in hands really! You only hear after the race and the podium is so soon after that.
So what do you do once you’re told? Is there a set or protocols in getting to the podium?
It was really down to me. I didn’t know what to do, so I just made my way there [down the pitlane]. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to go anywhere different and I actually grabbed our Head of Marketing Dominik [Mitsch] and said: ‘how do I get in there?’ He pushed through and got me through the barriers. After that I just found my own way up there. At one point I went through a door and then I saw Sebastian and just followed him up there.
Before the drivers go out to receive their trophies they spend a couple of minutes getting ready in the room behind the podium. How was that, and what were Sebastian, Kimi and Romain talking about?
I have no idea! I just stayed out of the way because the cameras were on them. I didn’t really hear what was going on. I was too nervous to listen to anything anyway!
I was really, really nervous. Mostly because I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do or where I was supposed to go. I was just thinking ‘what am I supposed to do?’ It was very strange.
So, what happened when you finally went out onto the podium? What was it like?
I actually stood in the wrong place! Before we went out a guy said to me: ‘you need to stand at the other end to walk past the podium’. So I did that but that was the wrong place so half way through they moved me across.
Strangely, it felt quite quiet up there. You hear the anthems and the music but you don’t really hear anything else. I could see where everyone was. I could tell our team was all at one side below the podium. Also I could see Ciaran [Pilbeam – Mark Webber’s former race engineer] in the middle, obviously he’s with Lotus now, and I could see one of the guys that works for me. So I could sort of see key people, but as for hearing things, not much really. All you can hear is the music.
It looked like a pretty hefty trophy. Were you worried you’d drop it?
Yeah. On the way up, Sebastian said: ‘oh it’s a mega trophy here, it’s really big’ and I was like, ‘oh no, it’s going to be really heavy and I’ll drop it’. Then I saw it had handles and I was a bit more comfortable.
What was the most memorable part of the experience?
I think just the fact that everyone is congratulating you. It felt like people were saying well done to me. I thought ‘well, I haven’t done anything different to how I normally do things’ but it is nice getting all the messages from home and everyone’s seen it. Obviously, it’s massive, with people posting messages and people sending me emails that I’ve not heard from for years.
Did you ever expect that something like this might happen when you started in motorsport?
Never. I don’t think it was anything I’d ever thought about really. Obviously as the team started winning more and more it was becoming scarily close because quite a lot of different people had been up before me – the guys on the pit wall and the guys from the office. So, yeah, it was a bit special.