Matt Parry achieved the dream of a lifetime at Silverstone on Monday – and immediately revealed that it had only whetted his appetite for more.

The 20-year old was present at the ‘Home of British Motorsport’ to drive a McLaren F1 car, completing his reward for winning the 2013 McLaren Autosport BRDC Driver of the Year award, and admitted afterwards that the experience had been even greater than he had anticipated.

Originally scheduled for the middle of day, breaking up the assessment of the six drivers battling it out to replace Parry as the annual award winner, the F1 run was delayed by a couple of hours as the car – the very MP4-26 machine which Jenson Button had driven to victory in the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix – was beset by telemetry problems, but its latest pilot was unfazed by having to put his dream on hold.

“It was a little frustrating to have to wait a little longer to drive the car,” Parry confessed, “but I knew that the team was doing everything it could to ensure that the run was as safe as it could be for an F1 rookie. There was still plenty for me to do, however, performing necessary checks on the car, which also allowed me to get more comfortable in the cockpit.”

When the time came to climb aboard for real, Parry again showed few signs of trepidation, appearing as if born to drive an F1 car. Another short delay while the track cleared allowed the Welshman to gather his thoughts in the garage, before being unleashed on a series of short runs on the full Silverstone Grand Prix layout.

“It was extraordinary to be sat in the car for the first time,” Parry conceded, “The nerves kicked in a little bit while I was waiting for the signal to go, as I was a little concerned about getting out of the garage without stalling – especially with everyone watching! But, once that was out of the way, the racing driver instinct kicked in and I just tried to utilise the experience as much as possible and have fun out there.”

After an initial installation lap to ensure that all the car’s systems were running as expected, Parry’s programme consisted of a series of four-lap runs, each designed to allow him to gain confidence and exploit more of the McLaren’s potential.

“I was excited, I was nervous, I just wanted to get out there,” the Sport Wales ambassador explained, “I was eager, but I didn't want to make any mistakes, so the whole thing combined into one emotion! Obviously I only did short runs, but the fitness side was okay. The seat that the guys did back at the factory was great, which made me feel secure, and my neck was fine.

“Katie, my engineer for this weekend, was great in explaining everything I needed to know and, apart from an issue with the radio and my earplugs, everything was okay. I had a bit of a problem with my helmet lifting up a little bit on one run but, apart from that, it was fine.”

Unlike many F1 debutants, Parry admitted that it was both the speed and braking potential that grabbed his attention behind the wheel of the chrome-and-black MP4-26.

“The speed is the biggest thing – it’s hard to describe the power, but it pulls in every gear and, even in seventh, it feels like you are in first!” he explained, “It's just continuous power everywhere. Of course, the brakes are good being full carbon, and they were incredible to experience as well, especially with the downforce.

“Even compared to Formula Renault 3.5 and some other cars that I've driven, the F1 is on a different level and that's why it’s the number one single-seater category in the world. It’s phenomenal! We never made it too complicated in terms of feedback as the whole point was to enjoy the experience. I got it a little sideways through the kink onto the new straight so, yeah, it was fun!”

The F1 test came at the end of a somewhat frustrating season for Parry, but will provide a welcome morale boost as he formulates his plans for 2015.

“The McLaren is a car I just loved to drive, and I really hope I can drive something like this as an everyday thing because there’s nothing else like it on the planet,” he concluded, “I'd like to thank the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award for this fantastic opportunity - and especially Team McLaren, who made me feel welcome even in the short space of time that I was with them. I really, really enjoyed this test and hope that I can be in one of these cars again in the future.”


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.