Felipe Massa teaches PH how to drive an F1 car
Riggers takes an F1 car around Silverstone. Well, a simulated Silverstone...
Beats a PS3...
And what a piece of kit a modern F1 simulator is. Shell's example doesn't have as much hydraulic ram trickery as ones belonging to F1 teams, but otherwise it's a serious piece of kit. A gamer's wet dream, in fact.
It uses the exact software as The Scuderia's sim, the body parts are hand-built by Ferrari itself, the control weights are set up to precisely mirror Massa's actual race car, and the steering wheel, as with all full-on F1 simulators, is made by McLaren Technologies (which no doubt sticks in the craw for some at Maranello). Everything else is high-end, too - the projectors alone cost £10,000.
And I'm lucky enough to have a go at a hot lap or two with Felipe Massa sitting beside me (not actually in the cockpit; that would be absurd). As track instruction goes, it surely doesn't get any cooler than having a real-life F1 driver give you tips.
I ask him how long he spends in F1 simulators - something that's a lot more important than it used to be with the restricted testing in F1 these days. "I've spent two days preparing for Silverstone on it," he tells me, "but I don't know how much time I spend on the simulator overall - though it's a lot!"
It's also a much more efficient way to learn a circuit. "You get a lot more track time, because when you're done with a session you can just switch it off and get out." In short, there's no need for installation laps, no need for warm-up and cool-down periods and no need to lug several articulated lorries to a distant racetrack.
"Yeah, it's a bit weird at first," says Massa, "Maybe for the first few laps you don't try as hard as you don't have all the same sensations, but you get used to it. Mind you a lot of drivers struggle with sims, particularly the older ones who haven't grown up with them."
I can see how it would be a bit weird, but my problems are entirely different. A full-on simulator like this really gives you an appreciation of just how alien an experience an F1 car must be compared to more lowly formulae. There's simply so much grip, so much acceleration and so much braking capability that you have to completely re-calibrate your ideas of what is possible.