Yesterday eight JA on F1 readers, the winners of our best ever competition, got the chance to drive the Mercedes F1 simulator at Brackley and to tour the factory in detail. It is all part of our mission to bring the fans closer to the sport, and you don’t get much closer than this, going into a restricted area of an F1 factory!
It was a unique day; it’s unprecedented for an F1 team to throw open its simulator to outsiders.
The lucky eight were: Alex Porazinski, Nathan Tague, Lucy Walhain, Stephen Singh, Daniel Burns, Patrick Charlton, Neil Donnell and Joseph Whitaker.
The day began with a briefing from the simulator operator Chris Williams as well as Mercedes reserve driver Sam Bird, who spends a lot of time working on the simulator. The track selected was Barcelona, which is the default circuit for F1 testing.
The simulator, like most F1 teams, is based around a genuine F1 monocoque with a giant semi-circular screen in front of it. Bird talked the winners through the controls and particularly the steering wheel, which was one of Nico Rosberg’s wheels. Rosberg was due in the simulator the next day. Lewis Hamilton was also there, driving the 2014 car on Mercedes’ other simulator and some of the winners bumped into him on their factory tour, where they also saw the new 2014 car being built.
Williams also explained that apart from a more user-friendly clutch setting, the simulator was set up exactly as it would be for day to day work; the tyre model was dynamic, so the rear tyres would go off for example, if they were overheated. The 2013 car was set up to run the medium Pirelli tyres around Barcelona with 100 kilos of fuel in the car at the start of each run.
Bird set the reference lap time at 1m 26.620s. Then it was the turn of the readers.
In the first group were two experienced gamers and two readers who had never driven a road car. Alex Porazinski, who has done a lot of sim racing competitions, set the fastest time in 1m 29.340s, but his best “ideal lap”, ie his three best sectors added together would have been 1m 29.160s.
Nathan Tague, who has done a lot of gaming, but doesn’t drive a car, did a 1m 29.700, but his best ideal lap was 1m 29.240s.
Joseph Whitaker was on the verge of setting some really fast times, but couldn’t quite put it all together on one lap. His sector one and two times set him up for a lap in the 1m 28s, but he couldn’t quite nail the final sector with the tricky chicane at Turn 14/15.
Sam Bird was on hand all day to offer advice and coaching and the winners had a great chance to test their skills with over 20 minutes driving time each.
Here are some of the reactions to this unique experience,”It was more than I expected. It’s mind blowing! The fact that you have the wrap around screen in front of you means that your brain is being assaulted!Getting used to the steering wheel with the amount of buttons on it was tricky. The braking was massively different to anything I’ve ever experienced before, on another level altogether. Getting consistent with it was tough but I thoroughly enjoyed it!
“I’ve played a lot of computer and video racing games over the years, so I kind of knew the Barcelona track already, but with that enormous screen the sensation of speed was far greater than what you normally get from a TV. To get within 2.5s of Sam was great.”
Patrick said,”It was incredible immersive and a little bit disorientating at first. It’s really hyper accurate and the driving position itself was a real eye-opener, being able to see over the top of the car was tricky, but it was a lot of fun!
“It was hard to get proper speed out of the car, but the throttle controls and throttle inputs were easier than I expected. I thought I would be spinning more than I did. I was having to lift my whole body onto the brakes because they are so stiff.”
Thanks to our partners UBS for making it possible and to Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team.