Stefan Wilson gets dream test in McLaren F1 car
Stefan Wilson, coming off a recent dream-test in a McLaren F1 car, related the experience to us for our AR1 readers:
|Stefan Wilson in McLaren MP4-24|
Stefan Wilson is hopeful for a return to Firestone Indy Lights in 2010, but first he gets to fulfill a lifelong dream of testing a Formula 1 car, with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. Here he talks to us about that opportunity - the dream drive.
I hardly slept the night before. It was the date of my test, Friday 13th November. What a day to drive a Formula 1 car, eh? No, I’m not superstitious really, I just thought it was funny how it fell on that day.
On the journey down from my home in Sheffield I thought of nothing else. I had spent most of the week wondering, asking myself questions such as “Over 1,100bhp per ton? That’s more than double the horsepower I’m used to - what’s that going to be like?”
I arrived at a cold, wet, miserable Silverstone and it was still raining, but that only added to the anticipation. The McLaren team had 30 personnel attending the test, supported by four transporters. But it was only when I walked into the garage and saw the car there, with my name on the side, that it suddenly hit me: I was about to fulfill one of my lifelong ambitions. I was going to drive a Formula 1 car!
Every edge of my body was tight up against the car.
First of all I sat down with the McLaren engineers and ran through some of the steering-wheel controls, and how the test would be structured. We watched some of Lewis Hamilton’s onboard camera footage for the circuit and looked at some data references, and the anticipation was building. Then I climbed into the car, and it was a very snug fit. Every corner of my body was tight up against the car, my knees were touching the top of the tub, my elbows were rubbing the back of the cockpit, and my hands were brushing my knees as I turned the wheel. However, this wasn’t an armchair I was sitting in, so it didn’t need to be comfortable. I had just enough room to do what I was there for.
My first lap was an adventure.
At last it was time and they started the engine - the sound was inspiring. I released the clutch with my left hand and drove out of the garage. I engaged the pit lane speed limiter, which was incredibly smooth, and I was on my way. My first lap was an adventure, as I used the paddle shift to go through the gears and experienced the immense power. The car felt so good to drive, it was the type of car that just fills you with confidence and invites you to push it harder every lap.
|Stefan Wilson getting strapped in|
It’s pretty exciting when you feel the car breaking traction at those speeds.
I completed five short sessions in the car. Every lap I was finding big gains with my lap time, despite the conditions getting worse every minute. It started to rain harder and at one point the car was more like a powerboat as it aquaplaned over the puddles down the straight. It’s pretty exciting when you feel the car breaking traction and spinning the wheels up while you’re in fifth gear - at those speeds it really grabs your attention. It was such an adrenaline rush. Getting to grips with the acceleration was the biggest thing. To feel that rate of acceleration in sixth and seventh gears was mind-blowing. It felt like the car was trying to pull my head off, literally!
MP4-24 in the wet
Eager to get back to business
I finished the day by setting my best time on my last lap, when the wind and rain were at their worst. Obviously a big part of the day was driving such a high-performance car, but another part, which sometimes doesn’t get mentioned, was just the opportunity to work with a team as professional as McLaren. Working with a team of people who are at the top of their game really ensured I got the most from the day. The engineers were full of praise, they said I couldn’t have had much harder conditions to drive an F1 car in, especially for my first test.
Completing the test has given me a lot of confidence and now I just want to turn my focus back to Indy Lights. The next month is going to be really exciting, and I hope sometime soon we have something big to announce for next year. In the meantime you can visit my official website, www.stefanwilson.co.uk, where you will find a report plus photos and video from the test.