Red Bull’s support team manager travels the world to bring Formula 1 racing to an even wider audience.
You may not know Tony Burrows’ name, but he may have one of the most exhilarating jobs on the planet.
Burrows is a support team manager for Red Bull Racing’s Formula 1 team. His mission? Promote Red Bull Honda and share the excitement of Formula 1 with new audiences around the world up close and personal.
“Not a lot of people get to see a Formula 1 car in action,” Burrows told Boardroom.
The Brit’s travels took him to Manhattan’s Classic Car Club on a pier near the Hudson River earlier this month, where Red Bull Racing had two of its old F1 cars behind velvet ropes while a DJ played music from atop a Red Bull-branded tank of an SUV. But before he could head over to this event, Burrows helped set up the next day’s street run, where NYC roads were closed so RBR’s F1 cars could speed across Chinatown and into Brooklyn.
Burrows also spends time at Red Bull’s racing factory in Milton Keynes 50 miles northwest of London, helping to build new F1 cars thanks to his skill as a longtime mechanic with decades of experience working with automotive technology and racing pit crews.
“We’ve got a hell of a lot of expertise with the pit crew, a lot of guys who have been around for a long time, including me,” Burrows said. “We’ve got a lot of experience.”
It took a long time to come together, according to Burrows, but he said Red Bull has put a great team of drivers and designers together.
But Max Verstappen wouldn’t be leading the overall F1 driver’s standings going into Sunday’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, — and Red Bull Racing wouldn’t be at Mercedes’ heels in the constructor’s standings — without an elite pit crew.
Burrows said the pit crew trains every week on the road and at the factory. In Milton Keynes, there’s an electric version of the F1 car that the pit crew practices on in pursuit of perfection.
“We’re trying to create muscle memory,” Burrows said.
The optimal time for a Red Bull car to get in and out of the pits depends on the length of the pit lane on race day at the track. But, per Burrows, it’s usually around the two-second mark.
When things go wrong and those two-second pit stops last 15 or 20, that’s when you notice the pit crews the most.
“Sometimes things go wrong, wheel nuts get stuck and they won’t come off,” he said. “And it’s just so frustrating to see the seconds ticking by, but it happens to everyone. It’s becoming more and more important as these cars become more difficult to overtake, bigger cars than they used to be. A couple of tenths of a second in the pit lane could mean you exit next to someone or just in front.”
Mistakes and drama have become magnified over the last few years as Netflix’s groundbreaking Drive To Survive series has grown in popularity and drawn new fans to the sport.
“I think it’s a great show,” Burrows said. “It does make me laugh, knowing what goes on behind the scenes. Sometimes I’m looking at it through my fingers and I’m realizing ‘oh he’s not really going to say that.’ It’s great to see the passion that everyone’s got for it. And it’s real people behind the scenes. It’s good to see the boys as well, the mechanics on the ground. We normally don’t really get to see them, the unsung heroes.”
Burrows is one of those unsung heroes himself. He started out in a garage as a weekend warrior, which grew into a full-time job as he worked his way up to F1 over a period of decades.
“I’d always wanted to become a mechanic,” he said. “I grew up always watching it on TV, and thought [that] maybe one day I could get into that. It took a long time, but when you get there, it is the pinnacle. Technologically, it’s second to none.”
Now, Burrows travels the globe bringing Red Bull Racing to fans everywhere by racing cars, talking shop, and loving life.
“Racing and testing has gotten me all over the world,” he said. “To get paid to take these old cars all over and to show off and have fun with people, you couldn’t have a better job than that.”