Long time F1 fan Neil Donnell won a JA on F1 competition to come with me to Abu Dhabi as a Fan Ambassador to a unique 2 day event designed to give an insight into what it takes to be a Grand Prix driver.
Here is his post about the experience and some of his photos. Please let us have your comments.
“So as my experience with James at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi draws to a close it’s hard to distil into words the sheer level and variety of enjoyment this adventure has given me.
It was a pleasure to just sit in the bus on the way to various activities and spend time with such great people. Listening to the stories of the inner workings of what we see from the outside and gaining an understanding of the professionalism and effort these guys put in to get us the breaking stories and insightful coverage that we want or demand.
You really have to pinch yourself when 30 minutes after he has driven you around the circuit in an F1 car, you can share a car back to the hotel with Jean Alesi and just talk to him about his career, home life and day trips to Chamonix.
The drivers were all like this, totally approachable, relaxed and great fun to be around. As soon as the helmets were on though they were down to business.
I just don’t think they can help themselves and you get the feeling that they didn’t leave much on the table on some of the hot lap runs.
Wednesday afternoons Renault Clio race – with us as passengers – was a great example of the drivers’ characters in action. Johnny Herbert and Jean Alesi are obviously old friends and this came through in their racing. Throwing these cars around and generally causing chaos on the track, and all of this after a direct warning from the course director that any messing around would result in a black flag!
Jean’s advice on the racing line went straight out the window as he cut the grass and corners and then proceeded to drive through all the bollards to ‘open up the line’. I couldn’t help but smile on the slowing down lap he looked at me with a big grin and said, “Johnny is great to have these races with as ‘he’ knows all the dirty tricks!”
As a games developer I have a lot of experience playing games and in various reaction time tests I normally perform well, but going up against these professionals was a real eye opener.
I could talk for hours about the driving experience and the ‘pinch me’ moments but bizarrely it has not only been the sheer performance and ability of the drivers and vehicles that has left me stunned. As we know, F1 can sometimes have a slightly cold external face but the warmth and hospitality of our hosts, drivers and the members of the media has been simply amazing.
The circuit, facilities and hospitality are out of this world and you can tell that this was built and operated by people with a real passion for racing. Photos and videos really don’t do justice to the scale and splendour of the venue.
It is like Disneyland for race fans.
Here’s a rather shaky video of my Aston Martin GT ride with Johnny Herbert!