So, what happens if you put a novice driver in an F1 car? It turns out that, with plenty of expert help and assistance, he does just fine. Here are three of the people who worked to make Rob Tarlton’s prize a success, and their verdicts on how he performed at various points through the day.
- In the simulator: Jeff Calam, Williams F1 simulation engineer
- “We got given three really good guys. The first and second were very, very close. The third guy was also very competitive and good. It was very hard for us to choose which to go with and both of the top two would have done a really good job. Advertisement
“They did a shoot-out and we put them on their own so they didn’t get to see the lines that the other cars were taking. We gave them two separate 10-lap runs and between each one we showed them the data and they were able to overlay what they were doing. From that we were able to gain an impression of how they had understood and listened to what we were saying.
“They all showed that they were able to learn and the first and second guys didn’t crash during the whole runs which was quite impressive. The simulator is actually quite hard to control. When you get a car out of shape it can be hard to recover it. It’s not like a real car because you don’t have as much feeling – in your road car, if you’ve ever had a moment, or a slip on a slippery roundabout, you get a lot of senses coming in, so your body’s being moved around. Whereas on the simulator, it is just really the wheel and visuals.
“From that, though, we were able to see that they had really good car control and that’s what we were looking for. Rob seemed to just be slightly better at interpreting what we were asking him to do and then improving his lap time. For us, what we were really looking for was just to have a very safe day and a good outcome for everyone. It was really important for us to have 100 per cent confidence that we would be able to speak to the guy and that he would be able to interpret what we said.
“Driving the cars at Palmer Sport, they were all very competent and driving in the simulator, equally, they were competent. There’s a lot of pressure now, everyone is here looking at them. And when the pressure’s on it can be quite difficult. There’s quite a lot to take in.”
- In the F3 car: Jonathan Kennard, Formula Three/Raikkonen Robertson veteran
- “The idea is that the competition winner drives our Formula 3 car first before the F1 car – because obviously it is too much of a jump for anyone to go straight into the F1 car.
“The winner’s done very well so far. He’s doing a little bit of heeling-and-toeing, his trace of wheelspeed is pretty good, I’d say, so he’s done a pretty good job and should do really well in the F1 car.
“I went out and did a very average lap to start with so we had some data for everyone else to look at. What we are trying to achieve is for the competition winner to have a similar brake pressure. We call it ‘aiming for a V’ on the data, where your speed through the corner is a V not a U.
“The first time he came out it was a U, which means you are making the corner longer than it needs to be. And if you make it more of a V you can actually therefore brake later.
“These were the sorts of things we were looking at, and making sure feeding back on the power is nice and smooth, and also getting the gears right as well, which he did really, really quickly. For a novice, I think that was a really good effort.”
- In the F1 car: Kazuki Nakajima, Williams F1 race driver
- “It has been very, very impressive. I was watching here from the pit lane and I could hear the from the sound the way he was driving. He just kept going and going, he just went flat out from lap one, which is very impressive. The way he drives the car is really the proper way. To be honest, I did not really expect such performance from a newcomer. He is very impressive with his speed, but also with his way of learning.
“In the Lotus this morning he had a very good feel for the car and he knew how to drive it properly. He had a bit of a moment, but it’s a tough car, it’s very difficult, it’s very snappy. He managed to catch the car so I could see that he is a good driver.
“But from Lotus to F1 car is quite a huge jump and normally people struggle with that.