Driving A Formula One Car For The First Time… What It’s Really Like

"These things are rocket ships on wheels!"

Formula One cars are the fastest regulated road-course racing cars in the world. A typical F1 race will see cars average around 200km/h, reach top speeds of 360km/h, and drivers will pull as much as 6 G’s in corners. There’s a reason not just anyone can be an F1 driver.

That’s what young IndyCar phenom Pato O’Ward discovered earlier this week when he tested a McLaren MCL35M F1 car – the same car that Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris drove this year – during post-season testing at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

The 22-year-old Mexican race car driver was blown away by his F1 test, sharing on Twitter that “these things are like rocket ships on wheels” and that it “was the nearest experience I have ever had to possibly having my head fly off into space.”

The fact that O’Ward’s already used to driving some seriously quick, intense vehicles and was still gobsmacked by the ferocity of an F1 car speaks volumes.

Check out Pato O’Ward’s first time driving an F1 car below.

O’Ward, who races for Arrow McLaren SP in IndyCar, had made a deal with McLaren CEO Zak Brown that he’d get to drive a modern F1 car if he won at least one IndyCar race. O’Ward held up his end of the deal by winning the 2021 XPEL 375, and Brown made good on his deal.

He actually did O’Ward one better, as he also gave him the chance to drive Mika Häkkinen’s 1998 World Championship-winning MP4/13 at the iconic Laguna Seca race track earlier this year in November.

Brown, who’s widely regarded as one of the best and nicest team bosses in motorsport, has become famous for making wagers with his drivers as a way to spur them on to success.

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Brown made a bet with Ricciardo that if he got a podium, he’d let Ricciardo drive Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo NASCAR (one of many rare cars in Brown’s collection) – which the Aussie got to do after his win at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix.

Brown made a similar deal with Bathurst 1000 winner Chaz Mostert, offering him a drive in Supercars legend Alan Moffat’s Chevrolet Monza – which Mostert agreed to, only if runner-up James Moffat (Alan’s son) could also get a go, too. Brown was more than happy to oblige.

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O’Ward finished third overall in the 2021 IndyCar Series, and has previously been tipped to make the leap to F1 – indeed, he used to be part of the Red Bull driver’s academy. Brown has said that he’s open to O’Ward eventually making the move, but that he’d have to win the IndyCar Series championship for McLaren first.

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