Whether in our motorhome or in the team’s hospitality suite during a Grand Prix weekend, everyone works really hard to make sure that our partners and guests feel welcome and enjoy their Formula One experience.
We talked to Tim Robinson from the team’s hospitality provider Rocket Food to understand just what goes on during the course of a typical race weekend… if such thing even exists!
07.00am. It’s early for some of our mechanics who worked hard and late the night before in the garage. It’s too early. A fresh cup of coffee and a pastry might help… so they head in the direction of the team’s motorhome. And then, as they stumble in, a familiar and smiling face welcomes them. Taking your order, and always with a smile and a nice word, is Tim Robinson who started working with the team at the start of the 2010 season. Tim says: “A season and a half doesn’t seem very long when there are people who have been working in the paddock for 20 years or more!”
Tim is in charge of coordinating our excellent front of house team from Rocket Food who to look after the team, our VIP guests and the media throughout the weekend. “The most important aspect of my job is making everyone who steps into the motorhome feel as welcome as possible” says Tim. The motorhome will see quite a lot of people passing through during the day. Tim comments that it can be: “around 70 team members, 20 to 40 VIP guests and large numbers of media.”
Tim knows very well the amount of work and pressure the team is subjected to and those factors push him and his team to create a ‘cocoon’ in the motorhome: “Everyone works very long hours under intense pressure so we want to create a home away from home for them.” Obviously, our guests are also a priority for his team: “For the guests that join us for the weekend, this could be a once in a lifetime experience that we want to make as special as possible.”
“We need to make sure we’re culturally sensitive as well as providing good variety.”
Something that Tim really likes about his job is the variety: “It’s very hands-on which means that we all muck in where needed”. During a typical day at the track, Tim will be cover all sorts of different responsibilities: “I might be serving drinks, taking food orders, setting up press conferences, cleaning tables or organising our fridge truck. I’ve had to fix our various coffee machines so often that I’m beginning to think of a second career as a coffee machine engineer!”
Another key factor in the motorhome is the food and the menus: “Our extremely creative head chef Ben writes the menus, along with the other race team chefs, and he also has the support of the full team at Rocket in London.” As we travel to a variety of countries and encounter a lot of different cultures, the team also inputs into the menu selection: “The marketing team at MERCEDES GP PETRONAS sign off the menus as they have a good knowledge of the expectations of our guests, and we need to make sure that we’re culturally sensitive as well as providing good variety. We’re often at the mercy of local suppliers and changing circumstances so Ben has to think on his feet quite a bit!”
“I’ve been known to “moo” and “oink” in order to describe meat orders!”
Working in different countries certainly presents challenges for Tim and his team: “The most obvious one is language and communication”. But to overcome the language barrier, Tim is known for his… unorthodox techniques! “I’ve been known to ‘moo’ and ‘oink’ in order to describe meat orders. It was a happy day when I realised that some places refer to Tuna as ‘Sea Chicken’. It made life a little easier!”
Tim’s priority is to make sure that our guests receive the same high-level service wherever the race is located: “We try to get a balance between offering exciting local dishes along with familiar products where we can.”
Another challenge comes with the weather… “Montreal last weekend was a perfect example! Some venues just aren’t set up to accommodate large numbers of guests under covers so we have to adjust and find solutions where necessary. Each race brings its own challenges, which is all part of the excitement of the job”.
Some races present a pure logistical challenge due to the nature of the place itself, with Monaco being the best example: “It’s easy to forget that Monaco is really not a very big place, and the logistics involved in staging such a huge event is hard to put into words. We have more guests than anywhere else, the team garage is further away and we have to split our team up to effectively cover everywhere. As well as the sheer scale of the event, we also have to deal with road closures and very tight security. It’s a good thing though as Monaco is one of the most exciting races to be part of, and if there were no challenges to face, there wouldn’t be as much satisfaction when you get to the other side and realise that it’s been a success!”
Tim and his team from Rocket Food include: Ben, Steve, Mathias, Bryony, Anika, Mark, Karolin, Hayley and Celine.