You’ve driven at least one car from every decade of Formula 1. Is that right?
Yes a lot. I drove 61 today, from [Juan Miguel] Fangio’s Streamliner from the 1950s to three of the latest hybrid cars, and pretty much everything in between. That’s something I want to do, really.
What do you remember about driving? Senna’s 1986 Lotus Renault 98T?
One of the best days of my life. It drove to Donington. Endless conversation, nice car. And I remember you were sitting in front of it, you would look out, you got such a beautiful view, because you were so far from the front. They used to put the drivers in the front of the car to balance the weight of the engine, which is why most of my generation were limping, if they were still alive.
How about driving Michael Schumacher’s F1 2000?
Great car. I compared it that day to my Benetton. So just a few generations apart, and how different they are, how much better the Ferrari is than the very analog Benetton I used to race.
Last: Lewis Hamilton’s W06 hybrid in 2015, around a wet Silverstone.
It just is ceaseless power. I can not believe. Like driving a turbine. Even though it was raining, I put my foot down, and it just kept accelerating. You’ll get a little beep in your ear to tell you when to shift gears. You don’t even think about changing things. you do not you feel transfer of goods. And I really thought, “If I don’t take my foot off the throttle, I’m going to leave, even in the rain.”
Cars are better at steering. So more direct. You turn the steering wheel, the car takes off. Something I wasn’t used to when I was racing.
What did you learn when you got into the cockpit of some of these animals from different eras?
You find that all the great cars that win races, the special cars that end up having features built around them, are well balanced. No matter what they did, no matter how fast they were at the time, they only worked for you, the driver. You feel at one with them, even if you feel intimidated by something like Fangio’s Mercedes. Yes, technology is advancing. I mean, I had a button on my steering wheel in the 80s. My last entry [Fernando] On Alonso’s car, I counted 47 different controls, including some with quite a few of those submenus. Then you will be told to go to a certain dial minus two or something like that. I don’t know how they do that.
What is your button?
My button is for the radio. And then, incredibly, a second button for a drink bottle eventually, which we never used, because it just threw hot water down the back of your throat and made you cough.
Does fear come into the equation when you drive one of these, knowing that can happen with engines with this kind of power?