For anyone who loves speed, the thrill of going behind the wheels of a Formula 1 car is unparalleled. The sound of the engines, the car playing with aerodynamics, everything around zipping past in seconds — driving an F1 car is an affair, which no driver would want to miss. By Manas Sen Gupta
But is it possible to drive an F1 car without actually becoming an F1 racer? Well, yes. Owing to some special organisers, a Formula 1 Grand Prix racing car driving experience with real F1 cars can be gained on some of the world’s most famous circuits.
More about F1 car driving experiences
The available cars have actually raced in F1, which means that they are speed monsters. But the good part is that there are no requirements for driving skills like that of an F1 racer.
All drivers are given proper training and guidance by experts and are led through multiple laps for familiarity with the circuit in high-speed cars before they are given the driving seat.
As for the circuits, there are multiple places to choose from including those which currently host F1 races. Perfect opportunity for racing car enthusiasts to grab the pole position like Lewis Hamilton has done innumerable times in his career.
Dubai Autodrome, Dubai
Drive an F1 Jaguar 2000 R1 3.0-litre, 550hp naturally aspirated Judd V-8 car in Dubai’s famed Autodrome circuit. The car was used by the Jaguar team in the 2000 season. The other option is to drive an F1 Arrows 2002.
Both cars are guaranteed to give drivers the pure adrenaline rush experienced by real F1 drivers. What is more, the Dubai Autodrome is itself an engineering marvel. So driving inside the Autodrome is an experience that has no parallels anywhere in the world.
The cars are fine-tuned to give drivers the exact feel of the thrill like that of F1 drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Eddie Irvine, who drove these machines.
The experience begins with a safety briefing on the circuit and driving techniques. At the track a 2-lap familiarisation round is held in a BMW 330i. This is followed by 10 minutes of driving in a Radical Sportscar for an even more perfect driving experience.
Finally comes the 4-lap real experience in the F1 Jaguar 2000 or F1 Arrows 2002, which is followed by a debriefing and certificate presentation.
The entire experience costs approximately USD 2,720.
And just in case the F1 cars are not enough, the Autodrome offers several other driving experiences in powerful cars ranging from BMW M5 and the Ferrari GT.
Bovingdon Airfield, England
Head to the Bovingdon Airfield in Hertfordshire, England, to drive a Jordan EJ12 Grand Prix car that was previously driven by Giancarlo Fisichella and Takuma Sato in the 2002 season.
The Grand Prix Experience, as the programme is known, comes via Track Days, which also has Formula F1000 and Formula Renault cars on offer for eager drivers to glide over the asphalt.
But before they get their hands on the F1 cars, drivers will have to undergo a full briefing and training programme. This includes guidance on how to properly apply throttle and braking besides safety tutorials.
The Track Days briefing would give the impression of real Formula 1 drivers who are briefed about everything from the car mechanism to track conditions before every race.
Once the briefing is over, there are 14 practice laps on the Memphis Drift Circuit including four instructor driven demonstration laps. This is followed by more practice laps including a 30-lap ride in the F1000 single seater with a training coach in a pace car. Eventually, there is 30 laps in the Jordan F1 around the Bomber B-17 Circuit.
As for the car, the Jordan F1 has a 600hp, 10,500 rpm engine which delivers a top speed of around 161 km/h. It takes around five hours for the experience to complete and costs about USD 4,900.
Apart from the F1 experience, Track Days also offers supercar driving and truck driving experiences in the East Midlands.
Red Bull Ring, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and other European circuits
Puresport Racing School is located in Italy’s Correzzana and offers one of the finest F1 driving experiences in the world under its VIP Programme.
Instead of just one, enthusiasts can pick any of the three-race Puresport locations on offer — Monza and Mugello in Italy and Red Bull Ring in Austria. Each of these circuits is counted among the world’s most famous racing tracks in history.
Before the actual driving experience on the track day, the drivers can enjoy utmost comfort and luxury offered by Puresport. These include stay in a five star hotel near the racetrack and a helicopter transfer from the hotel to the circuit. There is also an open bar and light lunch, drive simulator (at Monza racetrack) and sparkling wine at the end of the experience. It also includes technical apparel and specialised technicians to complete the feel of an F1 car driving pleasure.
Then, under the Formula 1 Advanced Experience, drivers can first take 10 laps in a Formula 3 F302 followed by 10 in a Formula 3 F308. Then comes the 10 laps in the Formula 1 Arrows car.
Among other cars to choose are Ferrari GT Experience and the Ferrari Evolution Experience, the latter of which offers all of the best supercars from Ferrari for driving.
But this is not all. Those who wish to drive an F1 single-seater race car with Puresport can also opt for any of the famed European circuits in Italy besides Hockenheimring in Germany and the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium — the longest F1 circuit — for an unforgettable experience.
On an average, an F1 experience in any of the tracks would cost roughly around USD 4160.
Autódromo Internacional do Algarve and other circuits in Europe
There are four types of F1 driving experiences offered by LRS Formula — Bronze, Silver, Gold and Full Experience. Depending on the type of experience, racers can choose from five acclaimed circuits in Europe. These include Magny-Cours Grand Prix, Magny-Cours Club and Dijon-Prenois in France, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain and Autódromo Internacional do Algarve (Portimão Circuit) in Portugal.
The Bronze programme allows drivers to get behind the wheels of a Formula Renault 2.0 equipped with a 2.0-litre, 200hp engine with a Tatuus chassis and a 6-speed sequential gearbox. Once an understanding of the machine is developed, the drivers can then take control of the F1 Prost AP04 or F1 Benetton B198, both of which have 650hp power engines.
The Prost was driven by the Prost Grand Prix F1 team which finished 4th in the Belgian GP in Spain 2001. It originally had a Ferrari engine which has been replaced with a Cosworth V8 or Peugeot V10 engine for unique driving experiences. The Benetton was used in the 1998 F1 season and is powered by a Cosworth V8 3.5L engine instead of the original Mecachrome V10.
Silver programme offers two more powerful machines — the 700hp Jaguar R2 and the Prost V10. According to LRS Formula, the chassis, engines and livery of both cars are in their original configurations.
The best experience is of course the Gold, in which a current generation F1 car, the legendary Williams 2011, can be driven. The car was the kind which was driven by F1 greats Rubens Barrichello and Valtteri Bottas. It has the latest Cosworth F1 engine that delivers over 900hp at 18,000 rpm. The Gold experience costs around USD 6,560, the highest of the three experiences.
The Full Experience offers a combination of cars including an F1 three-seater.
Private circuit in south of France
F1 fans know that the Circuit de Monaco in Monaco is one of the world’s most beautiful race tracks. It is indeed spectacular not only because part of it runs parallel to the harbour where luxury yachts are docked but also because it is basically a street circuit, meaning that the road is for everyday use for people.
Ultimate Driving Tours offers a one-of-a-kind experience for those visiting Monaco for the Grand Prix race. In a private circuit south of France, racing fans can drive former F1 cars before the start of the Monaco Grand Prix.
The cars are from the 2002 season Prost team and are powered by a 650hp V8 Cosworth engine. The cars are powerful, beautiful and really fast.
The entire experience takes a full day during which drivers can take 16 laps in an F4 car and six laps in an F1 car. A guided tour of the facility and circuit, including two sighting laps are also undertaken.
Throughout the day, they are given professional guidance and there is also an award ceremony.
(Hero and Featured Image: Courtesy Ultimate Driving Tours)