On the way back from the recent Singapore Grand Prix myself and Fan Ambassador Neil Donnell were lucky enough to be part of a group of media and fans taking part in a unique two day event, learning what it takes to be a F1 driver.
The event was put together by the organisers of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and involved driving a range of vehicles around Yas Marina Circuit.
Starting out with karts we worked our way up a ladder to F3000 cars, with F1 legend and 1989 F3000 champion Jean Alesi as our mentor. This video shows what happened when we took to the track in these wonderful cars.
Read Neil’s account of the experience below the video window and see if you can guess who is spinning out…
Neil Donnell writes:“The Formula Yas 3000 experience at the end of Day 2 was just sensational. Having worked our way up from karts, stepping into the Yas 3000 car just felt perfect. I have goosebumps just thinking about it now. The whole driving experience was exactly as it should be; strapped in, low to the ground, engine behind you, paddle shift and those big slick tyres right in your face.
“As we trundled up the pit lane in a line following Jean Alesi I thought to myself ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.’
“l was cautious through the pit lane exit tunnel (as you would expect) but then as I accelerated up the hill the car just came alive, it was just so responsive with kart-like steering directness plus rapid gear changes and acceleration. Even though I was alone in the car you could almost sense the delight coming from the other cars in the group. Everyone realising that these cars were going to be brilliant fun.
“Jean was supposed to control the pace and I was surprised at the pace of the ‘exploratory laps’ but it all made sense when I realised Drag Racing champion Rod Fuller was number two in the line, right behind Jean! It didn’t take Rod much time to start pushing whatever car he got in and Jean wasn’t going to hang around with someone in his mirrors. He soon got carried away, racing Rod meaning that James and I had to push very hard to keep up!
“It took me about 2 laps to get comfortable and then I started to attack the braking zones and corners. Over 4 or 5 laps I only felt like I got close to the limit of the car in a corner 2 or 3 times, with the back end starting to get a little loose but nothing too scary. The car had a lot more performance left in it, especially under braking and cornering. I could tell that driving one of these cars on the limit would start to become a very physically demanding task. The long straight offered some respite to take in the awesome surroundings and that beautiful orange glow that envelopes the circuit late in the afternoon, but even that was accompanied with some quite heavy crash helmet buffeting at high speeds.
“As you can imagine, I was really disappointed to see the chequered flag come out to signal the end of the session, with my adrenaline flying so high I felt like I could have stayed out all day.
“An experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.”