Riding shotgun in a Formula One car


The Formula 1 car rifles down two gears as the driver sets the machine up for the penultimate corner of the Paul Ricard circuit.

The noise is ear piercing as the screaming V8 settles on a flat throttle into the fast bend – and then, with a provocative stab, we drift sideways as the driver battles opposite lock, catches the drift and fires the Infiniti Red Bull car towards the next bend in another blistering assault on the senses.

I say we, because this isn't an experience I'm enjoying alone. And I'm not in the driver's seat either. No, I'm sat with one other adrenaline-fuelled speed junky, in arrow-shape formation behind the driver.

You see this is no ordinary F1 car (as if there ever was one). This is a specially crafted three-seater, used by the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team to make the ears bleed, and muscles strain of its lucky guests.

I've been fortunate enough to enjoy the incredible spectacle that is the Monaco Grand Prix in the team's very welcoming hands. And to top the weekend of all weekends off, I've been invited to a day of track experiences.

Later I'll get to sit alongside four times world champion Sebastian Vettel in an Infiniti Q50, but for now I'm "killing time" with a ride in this incredible F1 three-seater.

First, I'm suited up in Infiniti Red Bull fireproof race suit, boots and helmet. The fear is building in me as I pull on a balaclava. I can feel my blood pressure rising and palms sweating at the thought of what's to come.

Climbing into the side pods behind the driver – a professional track tutor with many years of experience - I'm left slightly perplexed as there's no seat to speak off. I'm bolted to the floor in a five-point racing harness and struggle to dip my shoulders below the side sills.

With GoPro video camera pointed at my face positioned perfectly to capture the look of fear in my eyes, a thumbs up from the driver signals the start of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The first sense to be assaulted is my hearing. Even through the helmet, the noise of the 2008-spec F1 car's V8 engine is painful. And that's at idle...

Then there's a clunk into gear and we're away, menacingly growling towards the pit lane exit. As soon as we're out on track, the driver floors the throttle. The acceleration is instantaneous, brutal and unforgettable.

The grip in the corners is astonishing, but the man at the wheel is in a playful mood, provoking plenty of stomach-turning slides in the bends just for the sheer fun of it.

We arrive at the main straight with opposite lock being quickly wound off and it's here where the real mind-warping pace is experienced. No road car would ever come close to the velocity the F1 machine – even three-up – it attacks the horizon.

As the revs rise, I clench my teeth at the noise penetrating my eardrums. But before I can worry about them popping, we're braking for another corner.

The g-forces in the bends are probably nowhere near those experienced at race pace but, for my inadequately muscled neck, it's enough to make it feel like my head is about to fly off my shoulders.

Less than a minute after the high-octane drive started, we're entering the pits, the engine killed dead and we coast to a stop at the start of the pit lane.

It's at this point that I remember to breathe, the experience of a lifetime over, but memories that'll last a lifetime imprinted like hardcode on my brain's hard drive.

What. A. Rush.

Riding shotgun in a Formula One car

Riding shotgun in a Formula One car