Jorge Lorenzo Q&A: Why MotoGP riders are braver than F1 drivers

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Three-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo swapped two wheels for four when he tried out a Mercedes Formula 1 car at Silverstone in October.

The Spaniard, thanks to his sponsor Monster Energy, was able to achieve his dream of sampling grand prix machinery when he tested Lewis Hamilton's title-winning Mercedes W05 at the British Grand Prix venue.

After the conclusion of his MotoGP season, Lorenzo then appeared in Abu Dhabi to watch the F1 title finale as a guest of Mercedes.

He found time during the weekend to catch up with Motorsport.com to discuss his experiences at Silverstone in more depth.

How did the test go?

"The power of the engine was amazing, but especially the grip in the corners, the way you can brake so late because there is so much grip in the car, but the fast corners, the downforce of the car and the grip of the car in the fast corners is amazing.

"The first corner in Formula 1, we take it in third gear with the MotoGP. In the Formula 1 it was almost flat out in seventh gear, so the difference is huge.

"I expected it to be much harder to drive because I tried an F2 car two days before at Snetterton and the F2 was very difficult to drive. The engine was very nervous, the steering wheel was very hard.

"But when I tried the simulator in Mercedes' factory I was like 'wow, this is much easier'. Maybe the simulator is too easy and the reality will be much harder, but no.

"When I tried the car is real life the steering wheel was so smooth, the power delivery was very constant, and I imagined that in the corners it would be very easy to spin, to lose control. but it was very grippy and very easy to be fast."

Did you get up to speed quickly?

"At the beginning I started calm and quiet because I didn't want to make a mess or any disasters. Then in the final run I could push to the maximum and make quite a good laptime."

Where can you find the extra gains?

"I think it's relatively easy to make one lap fast with new tyres, but the most difficult thing is to be one hour and a half at the same level, the same pace, with old tyres, when the car doesn't have the same grip.

"This I think this separates the rookies, the non-professional Formula 1 drivers, from the professional ones. Normally MotoGP riders when they get into a car they are relatively fast relatively quick, but the next level is to stay one and a half hours with very high temperature, not losing concentration and stay consistent during so many laps."

How was it physically?

"Easier than expected, but for me it would be very difficult to stay one race in the car with the same speed, the same precision.

"But as I told you, the steering was very smooth, the power delivery is smooth and you can relax your head in the car a little bit. Without these supports it would be very tough."

Do you plan to do any more F1 tests?

"If they give me the opportunity again, for sure I will accept it if I have time. For sure I would like to repeat it. We'll see in the future. I would like to test in another track and see how the evolution of the car are going."

How did you find the controls? Are there too many on an F1 car?

"Yeah, this is one of the most difficult things, because in MotoGP we just have two switches, one for the traction control and another one for the engine brake. But in Formula 1 you have 30 or 40 buttons.

"I just used two or three, but to know how to use the rest in a long race is one of the most complicated things because compared to 30 or 40 years ago when they had the steering wheel and the gearbox. So now I think it's the most difficult thing for a Formula 1 driver compared to the past."

Did you ever dream of being an F1 driver?

"No. My father was a motorbikes mechanic when he was younger and he was an amateur rider, so his passions was bikes, not cars.

"We were not very rich so my father in his free time as a mechanic started building me a bike for my size, so I started as a three years old. Without my father I wouldn't be a rider. I'm a rider because of my father."

You raced a GT car some years ago, though...

"Yeah, my first car race was in 2010. I raced in the 3 Hours of Aragon with a Fiat 500. Then I moved to a Seat Leon and I raced in the 24 Hours of Montmelo [Barcelona].

"We won in our category. And then three years ago I was here to race in the 12 Hours of Abu Dhabi and I raced with a 458 Ferrari and we won our category."

Will you do more car racing in future?

"For the moment I'm quite busy, but when I retire I would like to race more in cars."

What is the appeal of racing cars?

"Same adrenaline, but it's different, it's a new thing. You are a journalist, so when you arrive home you don't want to write. It's like me, when I'm home I don't want to ride bikes, I want to drive another thing."

Do you get the same feeling of being on the edge?

"It depends on the tyre, but you drop less time with a bike on a new tyre and old tyre than with a car. In a car with old tyres you are much slower because you have four wheels instead of two and how quick you can go in a car with new tyres is amazing."

Who has bigger balls - MotoGP riders or F1 drivers?

"The safety of a Formula 1 car is at a very high level with all the cockpit and all this. They have improved so much.

"Bikes have also improved but still when you crash your body is the chassis. You hit the ground with your body. So it's easier to injure yourself in a bike than in a car. Normally in Formula 1 is very difficult to get seriously injured. In that aspect we have a little bit bigger balls."

What was the feedback from the engineers like?

"I think they were quite impressed the previous day in the simulator because I was very quick from the beginning and they had to put me on wet grip to feel some difficulty because in the dry it was very easy.

"And also on the track, they were quite impressed that after just a few hours an inexperienced driver to be close to this limit."

How do you think an F1 driver would fare on a MotoGP bike?

"For just one day? I think it would be much harder to do laptimes than me in the Formula 1 car. It's more difficult.

"In a Formula 1 car you feel protected and you know that if you crash your body is not going to impact the ground. And also, on the bike the balance if much more important because you have to balance the crash or you crash. You have to move a lot while in the car you are more in the same position always.

"On the bike you have the sensibility of the hands but all your body needs to move and your body weight is very important for the result in the performance."

Interview by Jonathan Noble

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About this article
Series Formula 1 , MotoGP
Drivers Jorge Lorenzo
Teams Mercedes
Article type Interview