I obtained to drive the 2017 Mercedes F1 vehicle (sort of)

Once more in February, Mercedes-AMG invited me to the launch of the Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ+ – its quickest, most superior F1 challenger thus far. Remaining yr’s cars have been fast, nonetheless new legal guidelines for 2017 have elevated the downforce and mechanical grip of this yr’s cars, making them three to five seconds faster per lap than in 2016.

Every vehicle on the grid is an unimaginable machine, nonetheless the Mercedes W08 is clearly the simplest. No matter sturdy opponents, Mercedes leads the constructor’s championship with 475 components to Ferrari’s 373, making the W08 the car to be driving correct now. And remaining week I obtained to drive one.

Properly, I didn’t truly. As an alternative, Mercedes-AMG invited me to its headquarters in Brackley and let me have a go of the actual simulator utilized by every Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas – along with their earlier drivers harking back to Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.

And in its place of loading an outdated vehicle on to the sim, the Mercedes workforce let me drive a digital mannequin of this yr’s W08 vehicle on the Barcelona circuit. What follows is among the many most ridiculous points I’ve ever accomplished.m67485

The simulator

Sooner than I make clear what it’s favor to drive throughout the W08, it’s worth explaining exactly what its “Driver throughout the Loop” simulator actually is: in its place of the pedals or steering wheel you might want bought in your PS4 from Amazon, Mercedes’ simulator takes up two flooring of a establishing.

On the best diploma, you’ll uncover a mission-control-esque room, lined with screens filled with telemetry and completely different info. It’s the place the simulator operators sit – and the place Hamilton and Bottas’ engineers could be after they’re working by functions throughout the simulator downstairs.

One diploma beneath, you’ll uncover the simulator itself, and it’s like nothing else I’ve been in – apart from Ansible Motion’s simulator. It’s principally a room with giant, curved screens on three sides, and what Mercedes calls a sled throughout the middle. Developed and designed in-house by Mercedes, and costing successfully over £1 million, the sled can switch in nearly every axis – although movement is turned off for us – and it resembles the doorway and cockpit of an F1 vehicle.

There’s no wheels or sidepods, however it absolutely does have audio system behind the driving drive’s head and a small pouch in your smartphone – the latter put in since Lewis Hamilton joined the workforce. This addition does is smart, though, on account of the simulator operator instructed me that drivers can spend between 4 and 6 hours a session throughout the simulator. That’s pretty a really very long time with out to go without checking Instagram, so I don’t blame him.qualcomm_116

No matter its odd look, the simulator has exactly the an identical dimensions because the precise vehicle inside. What’s further, it moreover makes use of the an identical FIA-approved ECU because the precise vehicle, and which implies you use an precise, £50,000 Formulation 1 steering wheel if you happen to’re driving it.

As for the software program program? The Mercedes workforce makes use of a rFactor Skilled, educated racing sim program, nonetheless each half plugged into it – such as a result of the car info and the tyre-behaviour modelling – is written by Mercedes engineers themselves to be as affordable as doable.

Starting the Mercedes-AMG W08 F1 vehicle

After watching a few completely different journalists, it was time for my flip throughout the simulator, and the first hurdle was actually transferring into the issue. Formulation 1 drivers sit in a way more reclined place than in your frequent avenue vehicle, so F1 cars are a ache to get into.

It is a should to mainly fall into the car whereas kicking your legs forward and, if you happen to lastly do get in, it’s like lying in a shower collectively together with your ft subsequent to the taps – with a telesales headset on. It’s not as smooth as they make it look on TV.  

While you’re lastly put in, the simulator takes a few minutes in addition to up, and you find yourself floating above the observe. After you firmly press the brake – which has a few centimetre of journey – you softly land on the asphalt, after which it is vital to decide on first gear.m67655

To do that, you need press the neutral button, keep the clutch paddle on the bottom left, after which select first gear on the right-hand side of the wheel. As quickly because the revs are extreme adequate, or the LEDs are merely over halfway all through the steering wheel, you gently ease out the clutch. After that you just solely wish to make use of the paddles, till one factor goes dramatically unsuitable.

Driving the Mercedes-AMG W08 F1 vehicle

The very very very first thing I uncover is regarding the Mercedes is the sheer acceleration and torque of its hybrid powertrain. After gently accelerating out of Barcelona’s remaining chicane, I put my foot down and the car seems to take off. The inexperienced, pink and blue LED lights on the steering wheel all the time zip to the becoming, telling me to change up a gear – and it truly feels as if there’s no end to the car’s power.

Inside seconds, the car eats up the extended Barcelona straight, and as I technique the first nook at a speedy tempo, I’m keen about braking – arduous. As you’d depend on from any sane explicit particular person, I step on the brakes at spherical 100 yards sooner than the nook, nonetheless I uncover myself stopped spherical 60 yards wanting the apex. The stopping power of the Mercedes is just as as extreme as its acceleration, and I make a psychological discover to brake on the 50yd marker – 50 yards later – on my subsequent lap.qualcomm_117

After tiptoeing throughout the primary few corners, I start to assemble up tempo; braking later, carrying further tempo by corners, and usually pushing my luck. It’s pretty uncomfortable: a 2017 F1 vehicle has so much grip that you just on a regular basis actually really feel resembling you’re breaking the authorized tips of physics. On numerous occasions, I swoop proper right into a nook at a ridiculous tempo, and should consciously inform myself that the car can take it – though all my earlier, real-life driving experience is telling me the reverse.

Getting faster in an F1 vehicle is unquestionably down to manage – harking back to learn the way to modulate brake pressure – however it absolutely’s clear that plenty of it is also all the way in which right down to confidence and faith in your vehicle. That’s notably noticeable in faster corners. At elevated speeds, downforce performs an elevated perform in preserving the car on the observe, so the faster you go, the additional grip you’ve got. The consequence? Go faster and in addition you’ll carry on the observe – go slower and in addition you might not.

It’s an easy thought to make clear, nonetheless genuinely it’s pretty traumatic to take care of your tempo up if you happen to’re constructive you could possibly’t. Nonetheless getting it correct is exhilarating and it makes me get on the throttle sooner and extra sturdy – and that’s after I’ve my first near-crash second throughout the vehicle.

Halfway by T3, one among many quickest corners on the observe, the once more of the car steps out, and I’m compelled to point out into the slide and ease off the accelerator. It’s a scary second, nonetheless I carry on the observe, which is a victory in itself.

After that minor setback, my time throughout the simulator is a mixture of learning when to brake, when to hurry up, what gear to be in – after which getting used to the exact actually really feel of the brake and accelerator.

Braking stays robust, nonetheless, and I on no account truly get the maintain of it. The journey is so small and the speeds are so extreme, even if you happen to do brake on the correct time, you’re on a regular basis in peril of locking up – or worse, flying off the observe.qualcomm_118Regardless, every lap, I’m braking later, squeezing the throttle slightly bit extra sturdy by prolonged sweeping bends, and reluctantly relying on the downforce to slingshot me spherical. I nonetheless have pretty a few mid-corner moments that I end up being able to applicable, a lock ups, and a few wobbles the place I’m slightly bit too heavy on the acceleration out of corners – nonetheless on your entire it’s not that unhealthy. I’m nonetheless pretty glad I managed to avoid wasting a number of a 2017 vehicle pretty a few situations spherical Barcelona.

What it’s favor to drive a Mercedes-AMG W08 F1 vehicle

Merely when points look like hooking up for me, as soon as I’m braking within the becoming places, taking the robust racing strains, and as soon as I loosely have the gears down for each nook, it’s time to stop. I’m instructed by the simulator operator that I obtained faster as a result of the session went on, setting my quickest time on my remaining lap.

As for my best time? That was a 1:28.766, a lot better than the 1:38.347 I did initially, and nonetheless spherical three seconds faster than the next journalist. In reality, that’s ages away from the 1:20.511 Lewis Hamilton did to qualify on pole for this yr’s Spanish Grand Prix, nonetheless I’ll take it. Regardless that Mercedes added 5% additional grip to the car I drove, I had 20kg of gasoline on board – higher than you’d use for a qualifying lap. And that’s my major excuse.

Laptime Sector 1 Tempo entice 1 (kph) Sector 2 Tempo entice 2 (kph) Sector 3
1:33.540 27.883 255 35.317 269 35.147 262
1.38.465 24.737 262 34.888 271 33.915 266
1:36.277 24.906 259 34.428 218 39.131 264
1:33.910 25.526 258 35.024 263 35.727 264
1:30.910 25.883 282 33.524 235 34.264 266
1:31.951 24.129 274 33.065 247 33.716 266
1:28.755 24.471 277 33.219 255 34.261 271

So, what’s an F1 vehicle favor to drive? It’s heaps like a conventional vehicle truly, nonetheless the effectivity is so extraordinary that it’s truly like having fun with an F1 recreation. And plenty seems to come back again all the way in which right down to believing throughout the vehicle fairly than in your senses. The car can brake later, flip faster and carry further tempo than you’re most definitely able to – and part of being fast is trusting it.

Understanding when to brake and what to do throughout the observe might be paramount, and being at one with the brakes, accelerator and the car on the entire could be the third part of the equation.

I felt like I would go a few seconds faster by the tip of my session by engaged on these three areas, however it absolutely’s the 4 or 5 seconds after individuals who separate common people from F1 drivers. As for the last few tenths after that? They separate the champions from the rest of the grid. 

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