A former tyre technician for F1 driver Sebastian Vettel has retired from the fast pace of the track to set up his own business closer to home.
Jon Gates, 47, enjoyed an 18-year career in both F1 and GP2 which saw him travel around the world to exotic locations including Australia, America and the Middle East.
Most recently he was working in a 40-strong team of Red Bull technicians with German F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel, where he broke the record for the quickest tyre change in the pit: 1.96 seconds.
Now the father-of-two has set up The Tyre Changers from his home on The Green in Pitstone, so he can spend more time with his wife Katherine, 42, and their children Toby, 16, and Saskia, 14.
Mr Gates, whose mobile business changes tyres on cars, vans, 4x4s and motorbikes, said: “Seb is a great guy, and he would always take us out for drinks after each race.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time we won the championships, in Shanghai 2009.
“But the after party for the 2010 championships in Abu Dhabi were something else. It was very indulgent night.
“It was on the rooftop of this flash hotel and Seb turned up with magnum after magnum of champagne, and we were all drenched in it.
“I don’t like to think about the bar bill from that night, but I’m pretty sure it would have paid off our mortgage!”
The mechanic also recalls the dangers of being so close to such highly-powered machines.
He said: “I got run over when I was doing a front jack – I’ve still got the scar on my leg to prove it! I had my ear defenders on, so your hearing is limited and the car just appears.
“It looks like these cars are going slowly, but they’re actually doing about 60mph when they come into the pit so it’s very easy for drivers to get it wrong.”
As well as being hands-on with the cars Mr Gates also recorded podcasts for Red Bull ahead of races, where he talked about the tyre quality which he says became a big element of the race and the results. One particular recording had 3.8million hits in the first few days.
Now Mr Gates is working within a 20-mile radius of Tring, he said of his past experiences: “I had a great time, but it’s a young man’s game now. I needed a new challenge and I knew it was my time to go.
For more information about Jon’s new venture, visit www.thetyrechangers.co.uk