How Hard Is it for the Average Driver to Drive a Formula 1 Car?

Do you think that could handle driving a Formula 1 car? Of course, for any driving enthusiast, the resounding answer would be “yes!” However, Scott Mansell, a former F1 driver and trainer, aimed to answer this question in his YouTube channel, Driver61, and his answer may surprise you.

There’s a lot to consider when driving a Formula 1 car

Fernando Alonso (ESP), Alpine F1 Team, Nikita Mazepin (RUS), Haas F1 Team during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail International Circuit on November 20, 2021, in Doha, Qatar.
Fernando Alonso (ESP), Alpine F1 Team, Nikita Mazepin (RUS), Haas F1 Team during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail International Circuit on November 20, 2021, in Doha, Qatar. | Hasan Bratic/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

While you might think that driving a Formula 1 car is as easy as getting strapped in, flipping a few switches, hitting a few buttons, and away you go – there’s a lot more to it than that. The folks at Hot Cars noted that there are a variety of difficulties that come with driving an F1 car in comparison to a standard road car. According to Mansell, some of those difficulties include:

  • The hand-operated clutch: An F1 car comes equipped with a hand-operated clutch in the form of a paddle behind the steering wheel. “The hand clutch is tricky. It has a regular spring behind it, so there’s no feeling of where the biting point is and there’s very little travel, so being smooth is difficult,” said Mansell.
  • Driving too slow: According to Mansell, the hydraulics systems on an F1 car are driven by the engine, so if the engine is operating at a low rpm, there won’t be enough hydraulic pressure to shift it. At that point, the engine will shut down.
  • Weak braking: Mansell says that most average drivers are used to .5g of braking force but F1 cars experience 5g on average when braking. As such, most average drivers strong enough to put the required amount of force on the brakes to get them up to the right temperature for adequate braking in an F1 car.
  • Excessive force on the driver’s neck: Remember the 5g’s of force that you feel when braking an F1 car? Most of that is felt in your neck when braking and accelerating out of a turn. Mansell says that’s a lot of force that most average drivers are not used to.

Does this mean that average drivers cannot drive a Formula 1 car?

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No, any average driver can drive an F1 car. However, they will have to work their way up to it. Mansell and his team have a program that average drivers can sign up for. During this program, the drivers will go through a series of lessons followed up by some seat time in an F4 car. They will drive the F4 car behind a pace and then for a few laps around a track.

When the driver is deemed ready by Mansell and his crew, they will then be ready to drive an actual Formula 1 car around the track. The F1 car in question is a 2012 Lotus F1 that weighs only 1,411 pounds and is powered by a V8 that pumps out over 800 hp. Mansell reports that surprisingly, most drivers are able to get the hang of the car on their first attempt, but of course, they’re not usually able to reap all of the car’s full capability from the get-go.

Where can I drive a Formula 1 car?

Carlos Sainz Jr. (ESP), Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail International Circuit on November 20, 2021 in Doha, Qatar. | Hasan Bratic/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

If you’re itching for some serious speed, then you can check out the driving school that Mansell used to teach at, Winfield Racing School. According to the website, the program to drive an F4 car and work your way up to an F1 car costs around $850. That’s not bad, considering the type of experience it is.

If driving an F1 car is on your bucket list, then here is your chance. Don’t worry, you can handle it.  

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