This week I went along to Silverstone to see something I haven’t seen before; a member of the public driving a Formula 1 car.
This extraordinary happening was the final stage of the Drive of a Lifetime programme, which is organised by one of McLaren’s sponsors, Johnnie Walker.
Thousands of entries from all over the world were narrowed down to 17 finalists, who came to England for a three day experience, which took in some time at McLaren’s HQ in Woking, a day driving fast cars at Jonathan Palmers’s track in Bedford and then a day in single seaters at Silverstone.
I joined in on the single seaters and had a great time, lapping the national circuit on a sunny morning!
McLaren’s senior engineers Phil Prue and Scott Bain were there, along with Mika Hakkinen, who is an ambassador for Johnnie Walker these days, to decide who was most deserving of a chance to achieve the hold grail of all F1 fans – a drive in a real F1 car.
The car in question was Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 McLaren, the chassis being the one in which he won Silverstone that year. Hamilton showed up in the afternoon to shake down the car and show the winner how the controls work. Despite the news breaking that he has split with his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, he seemed reasonably upbeat.
The winner was Djordje Simic from Serbia, who did remarkably well when he got behind the wheel of the McLaren on the Silverstone national circuit, using most of the revs and hitting a decent line out of Woodcote. Most importantly, he didn’t spin or crash! I was really surprised at how well he coped, as these cars don’t work unless you get the tyres and the brakes up to temperature.
I’ve done a video on the drive, which I’ll post shortly.
McLaren are now retiring that 2008 car and Hamilton said he was going to ask McLaren boss Ron Dennis if he could have it!
For next season the team is going to use a 2010 McLaren F1 car for demonstrations and for this one-off event with the public. If this Drive of a Lifetime event happens again next Autumn, I’ll try to see if we can get a place in the final 17 for a JA on F1 reader. Now that would be cool.
Keep your eyes peeled for that…