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JA on F1 readers have unique experience driving Mercedes F1 simulator
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Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Nov 2013   |  11:41 am GMT  |  37 comments

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.

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37 Comments
  1. Stephen Taylor says:

    Imagine what a simulation of the Life L190 would be like.

  2. Daniel Burns says:

    Phenomenal day, one I won’t be forgetting any time soon. I now have a real appreciation for what the drivers have to go through just to get the car around the track and a great insight into Formula 1 behind the scenes.

    Massive thanks to JA, Mercedes and Sam Bird.

    1. Alberto Martínez says:

      Given that you have enjoyed such an amazing experience (I´m green with envy) it would be nice to share with us the things that impressed you the most.

      Also, could you shed light on how G-force and lateral loads are implemented in the simulator if so?

      Thanks in advance

      1. James Allen says:

        We are making a special Podcast on it to run over the Christmas period, with all the feedback and insights from the winners on their experience

      2. J.Danek says:

        epic! Can’t wait to hear it! Great contest and congrats again to all the winners!!! :))))))

  3. Elie says:

    Looks like another great day had by all. Did you have a go at the sum James ? Comeon fess up how did you go ?

    Mercedes are becoming more connected to fans with these initiatives. With Lotus loosing favour with fans over Kimi and Mercedes ascendancy – they could become the ones most people talk about next year. Although undoubtedly Ferrari will be under the microscope for sure !

  4. Paul says:

    SO jealous. Great competition prize James.

  5. Nick Lansdell says:

    Wow what an amazing experience! Congratulations to you all I am very jealous. Getting within 2.5 seconds of Sam is very respectable.

  6. Baart1980 says:

    :))))

    Congrats !

  7. Jaybrig says:

    Not fair!

    Seriously, I’m happy for those very lucky readers that got to try the Mercedes F1 simulator – and to meet Sam Bird and Lewis Hamilton too!

    It looks like a fantastic experience all-round!

  8. JimmiC says:

    I think what took me by surprise reading these experiences was the effort needed to press the brakes. I thought that, given the precision of an F1 car, all the controls like the wheel, throttle, brakes, would be hyper sensitive, but it sounds like it brakes like an old truck!

    1. Daniel Burns says:

      We were told Lewis Hamilton has a brake pedal which requires 2-3 times more effort to operate! That’s how he likes his brake pedal.

      It wasn’t difficult to use in my opinion, it was more just unexpected the first time I had to use it.

  9. Giles Vidgeon says:

    What an amazing event, i am incredibly jealous! sounds like it was a truly memorable day for all involved!

  10. Carmen Richards says:

    Getting too within 2s of Bird, means Bird should not be in F1 anytime soon!

    1. James Allen says:

      It was 2.7s off Bird, who won the most GP2 races this season and is Mercedes’ reserve driver.

    2. Scott Alexander says:

      2 seconds is a lot of time though

    3. Nathan Tague says:

      I think that’s quite a flippant statement Carmen. Having seen Sam up close yesterday and listened to his technical advice and guidance, it’s clear to see what he offers to a team like Mercedes. I can also say hand on heart that there is no doubt in my mind he could operate in F1 tomorrow and deliver.

      I think your comment also does a disserve to the people that put in said times. I think we did exceptionally well considering that we walked in blind, not knowing the track or what we would be driving. (In my case I didn’t even use KERS or DRS)

      Anyway, a massive thankyou to James and Mark for the interviews which I found very fun, as well as JA on F1, Mercedes (in particular Rachael, Christian and Chris), UBS and finally Sam. The day was incredible and is something I will never forget.

      My only regret is I will never experience something of it’s like again. Thank you so much for making a young mans’ dreams come true.

      1. J.Danek says:

        “My only regret is I will never experience something of it’s like again.” < oy! don't be so morose/melodramatic! you got to experience it once when most people will never ever ever be there! use that to motivate you to do something extraordinary now and get yourself the means to get back into that Sim!

  11. Qiang says:

    A silly off topic question to ask. Why F1 cars are not 4 wheel Drive? Any answer will be appreciated very much.

    1. Nathan Tague says:

      I think the short answer would be that it is against the tecgnical regulations set out by the FIA.

    2. rob in victoria bc says:

      My 1st guess is that the weight of a drive shaft, coming forward from the engine, to power the front wheels would ‘outweigh’ any positive benefit(s). I’m sure there are many other reasons.

      1. Random 79 says:

        Considering where the driver actually sits in the car a drive shaft might also present some health issues, something like a vague twisting sensation.

    3. jpinx says:

      Years ago – around the time of the Ferguson 4-wheel drive cars – I remember reading a fascinating piece about why 2 wheel drive is actually faster than 4 wheel drive. Here’s some of the answers – the drivers never really got to grips with the very different driving techniques…
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four-wheel_drive_in_Formula_One

    4. Kevin Green says:

      There is absolutely no need with the aero effects if anything it would just slow the cars.

  12. Walhain Lucy says:

    What a day! I will never forgot what happen yesterday! My dream comes true! Thank you very much to JA, UBS and Mercedes! Incroyable!!!!!!!!!

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it

    2. Sarvar says:

      Lucy, my congrats!!!
      Trust you guys have had a terrific experience!!!Awesome!

  13. Richard Busch says:

    It sounds like a great experience. Does anyone know if the Simulator runs an “inhouse program”, or is it a simulator program that anyone can buy?
    I understand that there are some very good simulator programs for people that drive simulator games on their PC’s.

    1. Nathan Tague says:

      I think it’s based loosely on rFactor.

  14. My tuppence says:

    The quickest time nearly 3s off from a pro who happens to be a GP2 race winner is astonishing!

    If was an organiser of GT Academy I’d seriously check out that guy’s physical attributes…

    1. Nathan Tague says:

      No DRS and KERS here either. Not sure how much they are worth over a lap but I’m guessing close to a second so it’d be even closer. That’s only in ten laps also. With more practice I see no reason why I couldn’t be with .5 of Sam on the sim, if not quicker.

  15. Duncan Conway says:

    Very jealous of everyone.

    I hope you had FIA clearance for this ‘test’ at Catalunya James ;)

  16. Mike Martin says:

    Wow! just wow. I am just stunned and amazed. I must hand it to you Mr Allen. Very very nice and awesome to do something like this for your readers. It’s really unique and a absolute lifetime experience. I can’t believe some of you actually bumped into Lewis. Wow….jaw dropping.

    Congrats to all that won.

  17. Hudson says:

    Great stuff. Congratulations to all those who participated. I too am jealousy now. Thanks James for organising this for your readers.

  18. Dennis Tan says:

    Congratulations everyone. Well done!

  19. Schmorbraten says:

    BOYCOTT THE LAST 2014 RACE !!! DOUBLE POINTS ARE BULLS**T !!!

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