Ahead of defending his Australian F1 race grand prix crown, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ace and 2009 World Champion Jenson Button wrote history today, becoming the first-ever race driver to take on Australia’s iconic Mount Panorama circuit in an F1 race car.
The historic event proved to be irresistible to motorsport fans, with thousands flocking to line the Mount Panorama circuit to see a Formula 1 car soar around the legendary track. Button completed five laps in the MP4-23 car, before five-times Bathurst champion, TeamVodafone’s Craig Lowndes, himself wrote his own new chapter in Australian motorsport history, becoming the first-ever Australian driver to pilot a Formula 1 car around the famous Mount Panorama circuit.
The unique event, organised by Vodafone with the support of Bathurst Council, was inspired by Jenson himself, who after taking Lowndes’ team mate, TeamVodafone driver Jamie Whincup’s V8 Supercar, for a spin around Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit last year, declared his desire to have a crack at The Mountain.
For V8 Supercar legend, Craig Lowndes, the event presented him with a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive a Formula One car around a track he knows (arguably) better than anyone else.
When Button took to the wheel of the TeamVodafone V8 Supercar, he fulfilled a dream- to thread a V8 racecar through the famous walls of Mount Panorama, a race he grew up watching as a young child in the UK.
Both Button and Lowndes paid tribute to fans, thanking them for travelling all across Australia to be part of this unique event and also for their kind donations to the Queensland and Victoria Flood Appeal.
Jenson on his first impressions on the track
These guys are crazy – they really are. This place is fantastic. Television just doesn’t do it justice. When I drove around earlier in a Mercedes road car it even felt fast. I think I’m going to have more fun in the V8 car than the F1 because you can actually use all the kerbs and get a good flow. I’m really excited about the challenge. It’s the second time I’ll be driving a V8 and I’ve got so many good memories of watching the V8s on TV and hopefully one day I get to drive one for real and it not just be four laps.
Jenson on fulfilling his childhood dream of driving at Bathurst
As a driver you have your favourite tracks. Like Macau and Silverstone for instance. But this is the one I haven’t had the possibility of driving and I’m going to fulfil a childhood dream in not only a V8 but also in a Formula 1 car – which I think is pretty special myself.
Jenson on the advice given to him by TeamVodafone V8 Supercar legend, Craig Lowndes
He jokingly said it’s flat everywhere and that if you don’t come back with wing mirrors that’s pretty normal!
Jenson on how it felt to be the first driver to pilot an F1 at Mt. Panorama
This is an iconic race track and it’s great to celebrate the unofficial fastest lap in a F1 car. That was phenomenal. It was such a rush. Once you get over the straights being quite hard to control the car over it is such a pleasure. It’s just a pity I don’t have more laps to test it out.
Jenson on how different was it driving the V8 compared to watching them on TV?
I didn’t expect so much grip. It took me a while to get used to it. I haven’t hammered a car over kerbs like that for 12 years so it was a new experience for me and something I’ve missed.
Jenson on what it was like up on top of the mountain in a V8?
I was holding on tight all the way. It takes everything out of you. It was the experience I’ve wanted to have for many years and I’ve finally done it. In a way it’s probably not a good thing because it’s made me more hungry to come back.
Craig on discovering Vodafone was giving him the opportunity to drive the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 at Bathurst.
Imagining an F1 car around Bathurst initially seemed a bit crazy. But it’s here and we’re going to enjoy it for what it is. It will be a hell of an experience. I never thought in my lifetime we’d see this.
Craig on how fast he can go in an F1
Potentially it could be a lot quicker but realistically I’ve been told to bring it back in one piece. Today is more about sharing the experience with Jenson – show him the track and the car and vice versa.
Craig compares driving the F1 to a V8 at Bathurst
When I first went out it was the acceleration but when you go through turn two you really realise how much acceleration you have. In comparison the V8 seems to labour up the mountain.
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