The most fun I’ve ever had in seven minutes was without doubt in the F1 simulator at the Ferrari Museum in Maranello near Modena, in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy.
I slid into the seat and was strapped in with a racing harness buckled up by a Ferrari attendant who looked very much the part of a pit crew in a full uniform, sans helmet. After attaching the steering wheel, he checked I could reach both pedals, a very stiff brake on the left and a smooth moving accelerator on the right. He explained the workings of the paddle gear shifts on either side of the steering wheel as well as how to keep it in automatic transmission. He pointed out the DRS turbo button and explained when to use it. Then he asked which track I wanted race.
Concaving around the front of my stationary Ferrari F1 car were three giant screens and graphics of six race tracks. Being in Italy and of Italian descent, in the Ferrari Museum, strapped into a Ferrari F1 simulator meant the decision had to be Monza. A good choice I was told, as it’s one of the easiest tracks to negotiate.
Lights out and racing.
Pedal to the metal. I did as instructed and went flat out, too excited to ease up as a bend quickly approached. After oversteering, I got back onto the track and the car seemed to continue on without a glitch, seemingly undamaged after hitting the barrier several times. This was a lot harder than it looked. Within moments, I was on a straight. I saw the green light and hit the DRS, watching the speedometer in the corner of the screen reach 300km/h, 307km/h, 322km/h. I was pushed back into the seat by some imaginary force. With my eye on my impressive speed, I didn’t see the next bend until I was in it, a tight hairpin, I skid off track and into the gravel. I slammed on the brakes, pressing them hard and the harness around my shoulders tightened, the seat vibrated and the centre of gravity shifted. This felt real.
Back on the gas and into another straight, going full tilt with DRS assistance, my racing harness sucked me into the seat and I squealed with delighted listening to the unmistakeable F1 engine roar as I clicked up to eighth gear. Then I took a wrong turn and ended up in pit lane and the car automatically slowed to 60km/h. I put all my weight onto the accelerator, nothing. I just had to endure the restricted speed zone and crawl through as if I’d been given a penalty. I made a mental note to keep left next lap.
After five laps of exhilarating speed, slides, skids and skirmishes with the barriers, my time as an F1 driver came to an end. My adrenalin was peaking and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I immediately wanted to do it again.
- Race Track: Monza
- Fastest lap: 1:40 minutes
- Fastest speed: 322km/h
- Number of crashes: over 20
- Number of corners successfully manoeuvred: 3 (or 7 if you count keeping two tyres on track)
- Likelihood of being offered a test in a real F1 car: less than zero
Cost €25 (about AUD$40) for seven minutes.
Ask ten people what their dream car would be and it’s likely that nine of them would answer a Ferrari, and this is precisely why. So much fun!
An edited version of this was first published in Driven Women magazine