Jaguar Land Rover
Owner Tata has announced a £355m investment in a new four-cylinder engine plant to be built in Wolverhampton.
Steve Sutcliffe Quick thinking Big ideas for the Vettel fettle
Proton and Mitsubishi
The two brands are planning to collaborate in areas such as engine production, future technologies and parts sharing.
Alfa Romeo The Italian firm has delayed or cancelled plans for three new models, including its big and small SUVs. It has blamed the euro debt crisis for the hold-ups.
Richmond council The local council in Surrey is repaying £1 million in fines to 18,500 motorists after a tribunal ruled that its spy cars were fitted with the wrong kind of cameras.
The idea of F1 drivers helping to sign off and sell their paymasters’ road cars is not exactly a new one. The late Ayrton Senna was acclaimed for making the Honda NSX as tasty to drive as it was. And then there was the infamous ‘Ferrari California by Michael Schumacher’ debacle, in which Maranello’s marketing department got completely carried away trying to persuade us that the California is truly a proper sports car, capiche?
So when I heard about the notion of Sebastian Vettel’s name appearing on the tailgate of an Infiniti FX50S, I must admit that I was a mite sceptical – because what, pray tell, does the young wünderkind know about road car design that Infiniti’s own engineers aren’t already aware of ? How relevant can the thoughts of a 24-year-old single-seater driver be when it comes to the creation of a two-tonne SUV?
Answer: quite a lot, as it turns out. Because when I called the good people at Infiniti to find out how much involvement Vettel had had in the car, they described the experience as being “a bit like a dream come true”. Apparently, they – Infiniti’s engineers – couldn’t get Vettel out of the car once he’d started testing it, and that’s something he did on numerous occasions at a variety of tracks, in various different parts of the world.
‘Apparently, the engineers couldn’t get Vettel out of the car once he’d started testing it’
The end result is an FX50 that’s lighter, more aerodynamic, lower, grippier and a fair bit faster than standard. And its interior “looks a lot more industrial than normal” because Herr Vettel doesn’t much care for trees when it comes to dashboard design, apparently.
And it’s not just a one-off project, claims Infiniti. So enthused were the engineers by Vettel’s input, and so keen is he to try his hand at another car – and so obvious is the opportunity to sell more cars – that an entire ‘SV’model programme is now being discussed. We’re not quite talking about a new BMW M division just yet, but something along the lines of Maserati’s MC Stradale line-up isn’t a million miles away.
All of which got me thinking: why don’t they go the whole nine yards and make a proper ‘Infiniti by Red Bull’ car, one with a genuine dose of Taurine in its veins and a proper pair of horns sprouting metaphorically from its bonnet? A full-on mid-engined sports car, in other words, that’s designed and engineered by the same team of people that service Vettel’s weekend transport. Then you could really talk up the link between Red Bull and Infiniti – and move a major amount of metal in the process.
It would need to be a seriously cutting-edge machine, obviously, featuring unheard-of aerodynamic performance and maybe a twinturbo 2.5-litre V6 powering the rear wheels – with a KERS system linked to the front axle plus a paddle-shift sequential gearbox and fully adjustable suspension. As part of the ownership package, you could even have ‘Sebastian Vettel’s recommended set-up’ for a whole range of circuits throughout the world, plus data from his best lap time around each track. Owners could then match their performance to his – and discover just how rubbish they are by comparison.
Such a project would cost a fair bit to fund, for sure, but then Red Bull isn’t exactly short of a few shekels nowadays. And can you imagine what sort of price Infiniti could charge for such a package? Or how much money the average well heeled enthusiast might be prepared to part with in order to compare themselves with the world champion – in a car that had been created for them, by him?
Remember, you read it here first.
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