Last Friday (24 January), we decided to give one of our biggest fans the chance to view the new W05 before anyone else, inviting her to the factory to see the car on the evening scheduled for photography and filming. It was her first visit to an F1 factory and Antonela has written about her experience below...
It was a typical Friday. I got up, got ready, headed to work, and thought about the weekend ahead. There was nothing unusual about it. As for Friday nights...there's nothing unusual about those either. I'd meet up with my other half after work, we'd grab some food, then head home and settle down for the evening.
However, Friday 24 January 2014 was going to somewhat different and little did I know I was about to have one of the greatest evenings of my life so far...
I'd received a DM from the @MercedesAMGF1 Twitter account earlier that morning, asking me to send them my contact details, as they wanted to ask me something. To say I was confused was an understatement! I had absolutely no idea what this could have been about...
'Why would they want to speak to me?'
'What did they want to ask me?'
'Had I asked them something that couldn't be answered in 140 characters?'
I had no clue!
So, during my lunch break, I sent Mercedes my details and before I knew it, I got a phone call from the team. I spoke to a lovely member of the marketing department, who introduced himself, then went on to explain why they wanted to get in touch. I was slightly overwhelmed by what he was saying.
PR know who I am because of Twitter. They know how much I adore the Mercedes team, and how much support I give them online and at the races I attended. How could I not love them? If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have met Lewis and Nico when I did last year. They listen to fans and make them feel heard. In all honesty, I've never felt so much support for a team!
Mercedes went on to explain how they wanted to thank me for being such a 'super-fan' and being so active with other fans and the team on Twitter. But how did they want to say thank you? By inviting me to the Mercedes factory that evening, to have a look at their 2014 title challenger, the W05, before it was officially unveiled to the rest of the world!
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling a tiny bit emotional at that point!
'Seriously? What!?' - To say I was shocked was an understatement.
"We'd like you to come along to the factory, for around 9pm this evening, and take a look at the new car, if you've not got anything else planned?"
"I'll be there! Thank you so much!"
I'd never even been to a Formula 1 factory before, let alone the factory belonging to the team I support! I couldn't believe what they had asked me. I'm just a fan, why me? I felt like screaming with excitement, but I couldn't. This was news that I couldn't share with anyone, except my boyfriend Steve, as he was allowed to come along to the factory with me. We were both so giddy, but had to keep exceptionally quiet. The only thing I couldn't hide was the fact my hands were shaking somewhat when I came off the phone. Thank goodness for pockets!
At the end of the day, I met up with my other half, grabbed a pizza, then headed home to get ready. As I began to iron my Mercedes shirt, questions ran through my head...
'What's the W05 going to look like?!'
'What's the factory going to be like?'
'What did I do to deserve this?'
I was just overwhelmed. None of this seemed real and I had no idea what to expect!
As we headed to the factory, I had a read through my Twitter feed. Most of the people I followed were talking about the McLaren MP4-29 and Lotus E22, as they were revealed earlier that day. Some were discussing the abnormal F1 nose designs, whilst others were tweeting renders of the potential look of the Mercedes W05. Little did they know, I was on my way to the factory to see the real thing for myself. But of course, I couldn't say a word to anyone!
As we approached Brackley and the factory, I had a sudden rush of butterflies in my stomach. I was so excited! We passed through security, parked up and headed into the reception area. At that point, I found myself instantly mesmerised by the trophies around me. They were absolutely beautiful! We took the time to look at each one individually, whilst a member of staff went to inform the marketing department that we had arrived.
When the team's Digital Manager came to greet us, we were instantly made to feel welcome. We were offered drinks and were even taken on a little tour of the factory, something we didn't expect to happen. We got to see the team's autoclave technology, as well as their race bays and clean room.
The aim of the evening was to capture some photos and video footage of the W05, for some upcoming teaser content. We watched on as the film crew set up their equipment in preparation for the arrival of the car. I think I can speak for both of us, we felt like kids at Christmas!
Soon after, we headed upstairs into a little room nearby to wait for the car to arrive, where we were offered drinks and snacks. During this time we got the opportunity to have a proper chat with the team's Digital Manager. He was incredibly friendly and again, made us feel so welcome. Occasionally, Steve would head out to see if the W05 had arrived, and eventually, it did!
As I looked down from above, I was completely taken back by the car. It was absolutely stunning! The team had created a rather beautiful 2014 title challenger.
We headed down to the car to take a closer look at it. The front wing really caught my attention. It looked so complex. And the nose, it looked....normal! There'd been so much talk of 'F1 noses' over the past few weeks in the media and on social sites, that I really didn't know what to expect. However, I was really happy with what I saw!
I remember thinking at that point, how grateful I was for being there...as cheesy at it sounds! We got some photos up close to the car, as well as some with the car. As the video and photo capture session came to a close, we took a few more pictures, then followed the team's Digital Manager to take a look around some more of the factory. This was honestly the greatest Friday night we could have ever wished for!
As it approached 11pm, we headed back to reception to make our way home. The entire evening was so surreal, and I couldn't thank Mercedes enough for the memories we were going to take away with us. We had some photos taken with the trophies, then spent a bit of time having a general chat about all things F1. After saying goodbye, we made our way out of the factory, dashed through the rain, back to our car...
'I can't believe that just happened!'
We were both speechless.
On arriving back home, we were absolutely buzzing with excitement. If anyone would've said to me - 'you're going to spend this Friday night at the Mercedes factory, looking at their 2014 car, before the rest of the world' - I would've laughed and replied with something along the lines of:
'In my wildest dreams!'
Well...This F1 team make dreams come true!
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Mercedes for this incredible experience. I found myself instantly warming to them when Lewis Hamilton joined in 2013 and not just for that reason alone! Not only do my two favourite boys in F1 drive for Mercedes, but this is a team that massively appreciate fan support. They listen to what their fans have to say and are just incredibly likeable.
I've never felt so valued as a Formula 1 fan, and for that I could never stop supporting Mercedes. Guys, I could send you a 'Thank You' card, some presents etc, but none of them things will truly express how incredibly grateful I am for the experiences you've given me. You're an absolute credit to the sport & I'm so proud to be a fan.
I can't wait to see Lewis and Nico on track this season, in that beautiful car. Bring on Silverstone and Singapore! I'm going to do my very best to be there, with my banners, cheering you all on!
Thank you again @MercedesAMGF1
I wish you all the very best for 2014 & beyond.