A lap around Brands Hatch with John Watson
A1GP TV commentator and multiple Grand Prix winner John Watson completes several laps of the circuit every Friday of each race meeting. He does this to film a televised track guide, broadcast worldwide before qualifying and the race.
Here on A1GP.com, we give you an exclusive sneak preview of Watson’s thoughts on each track.
“I was very apprehensive before getting in. Much more so than other events when I had run the car. As the host nation, Team Great Britain get the spare car and they let me use it for this session. The engineers had worked until about 1.30am on Friday morning to get the car absolutely as they would want it to be on the race track.
“Brands Hatch is the most original of all the circuits that I’ve raced on as a driver in my former life, that I have returned too. I drove it yesterday in a road car and you realize how much elevation change there is throughout the session.
“The last time I drove this circuit was in the late Eighties. Jumping into it stone cold today, I was aware the tire temperature were cool, so I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. But when I got behind the wheel of the car it felt very good indeed. Essentially what you do, or what I used to do, as a profession, is still there in me. I’m not a racing driver any longer, but what I do is just get into the car and drive as fast as I can and do what we need to do for the broadcast.
“I was just slowly sneaking up on a faster pace. In my former life, I would have done three laps, spent ten minutes in the pits thinking about it and then I got on it. I precluded myself getting on it.
“First of all you have to look at Brands Hatch as a race track and you have these enormous corners. The first corner, Paddock Hill Bend, you come up to it with a sharp incline and then it is a really steep drop. The correct placement of the car to enable you to get the correct exit out of the corner is necessary to get on the throttle early to drive the car and move it to the outside. All those elements are key to getting Paddock Hill Bend right and it is a very intimidating corner. But it is in one of the top ten corners of the world. It is truly a fantastic corner.
“The run up to Druids seems a lot shorter than it was previously and it is about being economical and neat with the car. The new Graham Hill Bend is much tighter than it used to be. Surtees is a difficult corner and you’ve got to have a big commitment with the car, which leads on to the quickest part of the circuit, along Hawthorn Hill.
“Hawthorn Bend is a great quick corner, and you don’t quite see the camber too much when walking it, but you really feel it when driving it. You are looking so much further away.
“Westfield has also been revised, which has a very open exit and then you go to into Dingle Dell. It has also changed slightly and I don’t know my reference points to find the point of entry into the corner. It was the corner I was least satisfied with on my three laps.
“Then it is into the corner that I have bad memories of because I broke my leg there in 1973 - Stirling’s Bend. Luckily there were no such problems this time.
“Then the last corner on the lap is another fantastic corner. Clearways. You do your braking and then turn the wheel very quickly. If you set the car up right and then turn in late, it drops away quickly and you feel really great. That’s what being a racing driver is all about.” A1GP