Young Driver Wilson gets F1 prize drive

Stefan Wilson drives the McLaren at rain soaked Silverstone

You become accustomed to young drivers describing their first taste of driving a Formula 1 car with breathless enthusiasm and endless superlatives. Nonetheless, it’s still refreshing to hear McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Stefan Wilson enthusiastically describe that sensation of never-ending acceleration and phenomenal stopping power that strikes every young driver once they get behind the wheel of a grand prix car for the very first time.

Stefan was behind the wheel of MP4-23 – the car that Lewis Hamilton took to world championship victory in 2008 – as the prize for winning 2007’s Young Driver Award. Despite the weather at Silverstone last Friday bordering on the torrential, Stefan was still blown away by the experience.

“The car’s performance exceeded every expectation I’d had beforehand,” Stefan said. “Even as I was driving out of the pits, the acceleration was incredible – it feels like there’s as much torque in sixth and seventh gears as you get in the lower gears of the other single-seaters I’ve driven.”

The poor weather limited Stefan to around 20 laps of Silverstone’s National circuit, but he was able to learn more about the car from each run, and consistently improved with each outing – despite the weather remaining persistently poor for the whole day.

Chit chat before the run

Stefan said: “I was a bit nervous beforehand because of the weather: the back straight of the National circuit is bumpier than the Grand Prix track, and all those bumps filled with water and became puddles, so the car was aquaplaning quite a bit along the back straight.

“Still, I was absolutely blown away by the day – it’s a huge thing to get the chance to drive a Formula 1 car, I was hugely impressed by the professionalism of the team and I felt I got more consistent with every run. There was more time to come from myself, and the car, but I didn’t want to take too many risks because I didn’t want to spoil the day.”

Stefan’s race engineer, Andy Latham, praised the youngster for his level-headed approach to a difficult task: “Stefan drove very sensibly,” he said. “He got quicker and quicker in conditions that were getting worse and worse. In those sorts of conditions, we’d seriously consider whether to send our most experienced test drivers, so Stefan did a good job on a track that was right on the edge of acceptability.

“The day’s test was to let Stefan experience what a Formula 1 car feels like, what it can do, and to learn from the whole experience of working with the guys in the team.”

Stefan is now planning to use the experience of driving a Formula 1 car and working with a top-line Formula 1 outfit to boost his chances of securing a full season driving in the Indy Lights category in North America for 2010.