Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel swapped his Red Bull F1 car for an Infiniti road car when he spent some time at French circuit Paul Ricard a day after finishing second in the Monaco Grand Prix.
The German, 25, evaluated the latest Infiniti road cars and their competitors as part of his new role as the company’s director of performance.
He gave detailed feedback on vehicle attributes such as handling, steering feel and response to experts from Infiniti’s European dynamic performance team as they look to tap into the three-time world champion’s expertise.
Vettel said: “As new Infiniti cars are created, it is really important for us to develop them with their own consistent driving style, so it has been really useful to be able to drive so many cars hard and back-to-back on the same track.
“Similar to Formula 1 cars, it’s interesting to feel how different cars are configured for steering response and braking as well as driver assistance features like ESP and traction control. Getting these things right is what makes a good car great.”
Luis Bravo, who leads Infiniti’s customer oriented engineering and vehicle target setting in Europe, said: “Sebastian’s role as director of performance is significant in providing input to the team and we are very excited to be working closely with him.
“The test at Paul Ricard was the first opportunity we have had to dive into what he wants and expects from a premium, performance road car so we’ll be able to take his critical evaluation into account as we as we develop the driving and performance attributes of Infiniti’s next generation Q cars.”
Vettel has worked with the automotive brand, who are title sponsors of Red Bull, since 2011 and played a major role in developing the Infiniti’s current line-up of cars, including the Infiniti FX Vettel Edition and the latest model – the Q50.
Infiniti say that the work conducted by Vettel at Paul Ricard will directly influence future models, including a premium entry compact vehicle, which is expected to be produced in Europe from 2015.
Infiniti president Johan de Nysschen added: “The enhanced role Sebastian has taken on with Infiniti is another step in the integration of our Formula 1 programme into the Infiniti product development process.
“His uncanny sensitivity to chassis set-up has made him very popular with our development engineers, who relish the opportunity to achieve great precision in suspension, braking and steering calibration. This is great news for Infiniti drivers who will directly benefit from the excellent vehicle dynamics.”
*A day after winning the Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel headed to Michigan to go behind the scenes at Infiniti’s North American Technical Centre.
The German took his Red Bull RB9 race seat and steering wheel with him for use in ergonomics discussions with Infiniti road car development engineers as part of his new role with the automotive brand.
“In my Formula 1 car, my seat is designed around me so I am supported and sit comfortably, and the design of the wheel means I can easily reach all of the important switches and instruments,” said Vettel.
“It is exactly the same for an Infiniti road car, so I wanted to discuss driver positioning and comfort to make sure the priorities are safe control and driving enjoyment.”
Vettel also discussed car attributes like engine sound and noise isolation during his visit as Infiniti try to create the optimum engine sound profile for their range of performance road cars.