A few weeks ago I was invited by Dell to attend a Silverstone Formula 1 testing day (26th June 2008) which was actually the final testing session before the British Grand Prix took place there just over a week later. The purpose of the day was for the launch of the new Dell Studio laptops. This was the second Dell event that I’d been asked to take part in, it was, therefore, a great opportunity and I gladly accepted.
Only then did I then find out that we’d be getting flown into Silverstone by helicopter – a place, where on the day of the British F1 Grand Prix is the busiest “Heliport” in the world!
I had to meet up at an Elstree Aerodrome in North London for 8.30am — it meant I had to get up at around 3am — which is probably the earliest I’ve ever had to, so that was bit of a shock to the system! I was out of the house and on the road by around 4am — but it would ultimately be a very worthwhile journey!
Before we left the aerodrome, we managed to get a few quick pictures of the helicopters (one of which was being rented for the day from Pink Floyd) that would be taking us on our flight to Silverstone as seen above!
It was the first time I’d flown in a helicopter, but something I’d always wanted to do for a long time — in fact, I was going to book one of those helicopter flight experiences for my 30th birthday in August, but this came along before I got the chance to organise it, so in a sense this was an early birthday present and a much better one than you could buy on the ‘experience’ websites.
This experience was very cool, not only did we have some great views during our 20-25 minute flight, but for me, one of the best moments was coming into land on the infield of the Silverstone track, while all the Formula 1 cars were driving around the track.
From there we got taken to the BMW Sauber F1 hospitality suite where breakfast was being served and as we sat down with our food we were able to watch the cars go round the final few corners of the circuit just before they cross the start/finish line. We even got to see a high-speed spin into the gravel trap by Fernando Alonso just in front of us – he obviously pushed a little too hard on his aerodynamic testing, he certainly didn’t look too pleased with what had happened!
We spent the rest of the morning at the launch of Dell’s new Studio laptop range of computers as well as other products being on display, such as the Dell XPS laptop line. In addition to that, there were presentations given by David Clifton (Director of Consumer Marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa) and Adam Griffin (Product Manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa). We got to have a hands-on session looking and playing with some of these new laptops testing out some of the new features such as the new Dell Dock shortcut bar and discussing these with the Dell executives.
At this point, the 5 bloggers (myself included) separated from the rest of the online media that were in attendance and we had a round-table discussion with the Dell representatives in which we talked about various topics including Dell products, services, online marketing and interaction with their customers and bloggers. This was a really good session, I believe Dell found it useful hearing our opinions and I certainly learnt some interesting things about Dell, their online marketing strategy (including their Dell Conversations community portal) and how they are trying to take on-board their customers’ feedback in how they design their new products and services.
Another highlight for me was while we were having our lunch, Nick Heidfeld (who was the BMW Sauber F1 driver testing on that day) stopped by and chatted with the BMW Sauber host. He answered questions on how the testing day was going, his thoughts on Formula 1 and a bit about himself and what he likes to do away from the sport — which actually sounded rather down-to-earth given what he does for a living!
In the afternoon we then got to visit the BMW Sauber F1 team garage and pitlane where we got to see (and hear!) the cars up close. One of the team members explained to us about the cars, tyres and steering wheel (which we weren’t allowed to photograph, unfortunately) — I was really impressed by how many buttons and controls there are on an F1 steering wheel, even though I’m quite familiar with Formula 1. Equally, I was really surprised by quite how many little changes the driver can make to the car while out on the track driving at 200mph and how some of the really fast drivers (such as Michael Schumacher) get the best qualifying times by continually tweaking their car with these controls, especially on a qualifying lap. All very interesting to someone who would spend hours playing Geoff Crammond’s F1 Grand Prix simulator games on full 100% race distances!
At the end of the day we then got another helicopter flight back to the aerodrome and then set off on my long journey home, but it had been really worthwhile. Overall, the whole day was a brilliant experience with Dell and the BMW Sauber F1 Team, a big thanks to them for the day which also proved to be a good networking event with the other bloggers and online media at the event — it was great to see Gaj from Gaj-It.com, Al from Coolest Gadgets and also meet Matt from Gadget Venue for the first time. I also got to talk to some of the guys from Tech Digest and Trusted Reviews which was good too, thanks very much to Lex and all the guys from GCI for organising a really enjoyable media event!
You can see more photos and videos of the day over at Dell’s Flickr page and on my YouTube Silverstone F1 videos playlist. A big thanks go out to Gaj for sharing these videos below – unfortunately, my camera batteries gave out on me!
Simon Barker is the founder and editor of Zath and has over 25 years worth of experience of using computers and technology in general. He can normally be found researching or testing the latest in technology products.
He has provided IT consultancy services to both home and small business users for over 15 years, building PCs, fixing hardware/software problems and providing comprehensive training.
Simon always likes to get the best out of the technology he is using, by both making informed decisions of what products to purchase and also optimising how it is then used to get the most benefits possible.
If you’d like to follow and/or contact him on Twitter, please feel free to do so – @SimonBarker.