The Day I Met The RB7

Committing to wellness, I want to continue to write about other passions in my life. While yes, pharmacy and toxicology are cool, my hope is that by sharing other interests outside of that world can help us all in terms of “wellness.” Whether it reminds us we’re all human, establishes other connections, or just happens to be a mental escape from work, I believe exploring these topics will introduce positive change.

So I’m going to share one of my passions, and the third happiest day of my life (so far).

The day I met the RB7

Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. It’s the best drivers, in the best cars, on the best tracks *in the world* (in Jeremy Clarkson voice). Teams with names like Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes race an open-wheel, single-seat style car at the very limits of engineering. The drivers themselves experience fighter pilot levels of G-force under braking and cornering for the duration of a typical Grand Prix (~2 hours). Not forgetting that it’s also a team sport – the typical modern pit stop takes an average of 2 seconds.

The 21-race calendar spans across the late spring, summer and fall calendars in the northern hemisphere. Specifying hemispheres since numerous races occur in the southern part of the globe (Australia and Brazil). Each race weekend is a 3-day affair: FP1 and FP2 (or free practice) are on Friday, Saturday sees FP3 and qualifying, Sunday the main event (Grand Prix). Teams compete for “constructor” championships and individual drivers compete for the driver’s title. But there’s oh so much more. Drive to Survive on Netflix is a great introduction to modern F1 for anyone interested. But that’s just modern F1, to get a sense of why everyone’s complaining about it, you have to go back in time.

V12s at 3 am

Kids these days just don’t know. The current day F1 cars have a sort of Hoover-ish sound of the modern turbo-V6. Legends of the sport like Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen conducted the orchestra of 12 cylinders harmonizing at 17,000 rpm. That noise made waking up at 2 am to watch qualifying for a 10-year-old a joy to do. 

Getting up early with my Dad to watch racing was something that we bonded over. My grandfather (his father) was a race car driver himself. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but those early mornings in front of the TV, and the stories of him taking my dad to the track when he was young helped me feel a connection. 

The dark times of pharmacy school and residency 

But during pharmacy school and residency, F1 became something that I had to sacrifice. It was just the reality of the circumstance that many things that were important for one reason or another had to be phased out. Watching TV, or even being able to afford TV, was just not possible at the time. 

I believe this is one of the biggest tragedies of seeking higher education and specialized training. At least for me, it was. I felt as though parts of what made up my personal identity had to be eliminated. Granted some of those things were not productive and generally unhealthy, but others had real value. My youth and immaturity couldn’t separate the two. So everything went, and everything was put into professional development.

In a system so fragile, why was I surprised when it failed and I burned out?

Resurrection in Montreal

For our first year anniversary, my wife bought my dad and I tickets to the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. I was just out of residency and hadn’t watched a single race in about 8 years. But knowing how much I would talk about it, gave her the idea that it’s something that I should get back into. 

As only 10 years of marriage can now tell me, she was right. Unfortunately, I often take 10 years to recognize how right she is.

The race weekend was amazing. Despite the rain, Vettel spun right in front of us with just a few laps left to allow Button to pass by and ultimately win the race. More importantly, we got to spend the weekend, as a family enjoying the city and the race. It also began the process to reintroduce something that was such a formative part of my life. 

After the Montreal race, I started to watch and follow F1 again. With my wife hooked as well, it made it that much more enjoyable. To my surprise, we didn’t have to wake up at ungodly hours any longer since NBCSports (at the time) picked up the broadcasting rights from the defunct Speed channel for USA audiences. Sunday afternoons became a regular fixture that would help each of us get through some rather challenging professional circumstances.

RedBull RB7 in Liberty State Park

One evening after getting home from work to our apartment in Jersey City, I had a moment of confusion where I thought I must have left the TV on before going to work. What was even more confusing was that I never watched TV before work. Further confusing the matter was that it sounded like an F1 car, and it was a weekday (not a Friday either). So there’s no way the sound was coming from the TV.

As I walked out onto our balcony, the sound got louder. Since it overlooked Liberty State Park, I figured there must be some sort of event going on and tried to get a better look. What I saw, I couldn’t put into words. If you remember Homer Simpson’s reaction to reading “Free Trampoline” in the newspaper, that was me. I grabbed my camera, my RedBull Racing hat and ran – RAN – to the park (I had a car mind you). 

When I finally reached the park, I saw this:

I kept moving closer and closer, acting like I was supposed to be there, I got this picture:

And then David Coulthard got in the car:

That day on, I became not just a RedBull Racing fan, but also fully reignited something in my life that had been lost for the sake of a career. Over the next 5 years, F1 would help be that escape from dark times. From spending time with my Dad, to bonding with my wife, remembering that there’s more to life than building a career would be foundational to where I find myself today. 

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