Now that’s one special picture. Here I am, standing on the track in Navarra, together with Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne and Lando Norris.
This was a life changing moment, and I’d like to thank everyone involved. I couldn’t wait for more of this in the future. Luckily for me the wait was short. After the buzz from Navarra settled, my eyes were on the next target.
I was invited by the McLaren racing department to come to Barcelona for the final two days of pre-season testing, to get a full inside view in how we work, and listen to everything the engineers and drivers say during the day.
Although it was super awesome being there, I did have a specific plan for myself to keep focused on. One of the areas I find to be a learning curve as an F1 Simulator Driver is giving the correct style of feedback after a sim run and at the end of the day.
You can think of it like this: as a rookie, you climb through the single-seater career ladder and gradually learn the inner workings of your engineer and the team. Each step, you go higher in a racing class, and the level of feedback & detail increases. So as a driver you develop your skills during the year. Looking at myself, the first ever contact I had with an engineer was during the World’s Fastest Gamer finals.
None of this is a problem. The feeling of the car (sim) is there, it’s just about the process of the debrief that needs my extra focus. To do so, there is no better way of learning than watching McLaren’s professionals at work. So I did.
I flew into Barcelona on the Thursday morning, before arriving at the track at around 14:00. I had a quick look around, before I received my first surprise. A personalised headset! That was a nice extra touch of the day. So many little things like this were all taken care of.
After shaking hands with a few team members that I hadn’t yet met, it was time to watch the MCL33 race around the track.
At the end of the day I had interviews with the media, and then I got the chance to listen to the debrief Fernando and Stoffel did with the team. Finally, it was time for dinner and I was ready to go back to the hotel and of course, workout. Even on trips like this, it's important for myself and my fitness to stay on-track.
My second day and the final day of pre-season testing began with Fernando taking the MCL33 out – I was right there in the garage to watch it all. The sun was shining, it was warm and the car looked amazing.
After watching the morning’s session, I had another exciting moment in my schedule - an open Q&A session with the media. The previous day I was uncertain as to how many journalists would attend, but to come into the hospitality tent and to see people sitting there made me proud. It worked out fine and everybody left smiling.
After that, it was time to grab my WFG final overalls and pose for photographs and videos. When that was done and dusted, I had the afternoon free to listen in to the team’s post-session debrief.
My highlight was the end of the day where Fernando showed promising lap times, and with that came the happiness of the team in the garage. The test may not have gone as smoothly as everybody had hoped, but it ended on a high.
Straight after my Barcelona experience, I went for my own personal winter test - a week of snowboarding in the Italian Alps.
That concluded my month of March, and I’ll be back soon in April with a lot more to tell you about our simulator work.