Recently I was given the opportunity to interview Euro F3 race winner Michael Lewis. The American star shared his experience of his Ferrari F1 test as well as his F3 exploits:
Dominik Wilde - Firstly, what made you want to come over to Europe to race? Were you not interested in Indy Car or NASCAR when you were younger?
Michael Lewis - Really it was being intrigued on what form of racing there was outside of the US. Seeking to always push myself I felt that racing in Europe would really develop my skills behind the wheel of a car. Sure I was always interested in Indy and NASCAR, but there is much more racing out there than that
DW - F1 hasn't had a top American driver for a while now, are we going to see you there one day?
ML - That's my dream, and I'll do whatever I can to get back into an F1 car again.
DW - Are there any similarities between your Formula 3 car and a road car?
ML - Mainly just the fact that the Formula 3 has 4 wheels and a steering wheel. A Formula 3 car has been refined to carry so much corner speed and brake so fast that a normal street car is hard to use as a reference.
DW - Obviously you have single seater racing experience, but before you tested an F1 car for the first time, is there anything different or unusual you had to do when it came to preparing for it?
ML - Physically I trained my neck and shoulders even more than normal just to make sure I wouldn't get tired. The training was beneficial and I was physically in shape to drive. I also trained my legs more for that week to make sure I had good pressure on the brake pedal.
In terms of mental training/studying the track, I just used my references from Formula 3. F1 & F3 are really similar in braking points ad overall line. Ferrari didn't want me to use a simulator nor study any of their data because they wanted me to complete the test without any prior knowledge. So I just trusted my skill and did the job pretty well.
DW - What was did it feel like to make your F1 debut with Ferrari, the oldest and most successful F1 team in history? Did it add any extra pressure?
ML - Seeing that prancing horse logo on the steering wheel was pretty special. As I was getting faster and faster on track and really pushing the car, I was thinking, man...I'm really doing this. A big thanks to Ferrari for guiding me along the whole way and being very relaxed & methodical in their approach.
DW - How did the team help you with your test? Did they brief you beforehand? What kind of feedback did they give?
ML - Nothing before other than how to start the car & also how to complete the "bite point finder" procedure. The rest was up to me. Even finding the right gears through the corners. Remember, an F1 car has seven gears and a Formula 3 car has six gears.
DW - Can you describe what it's like behind the wheel? The sound, the heat, how well you can see etc?
ML - Incredibly fast, not that loud, and the cockpit is actually smaller than in Formula 3. The visibility is like Formula 3, just with a slightly longer and wider nose/front wing.
DW - The first thing everybody mentions after they drive an F1 car for the first time is the brakes. How different are they to an F3 car and could you explain how different they are to road car brakes.
ML - The first thing that I noticed was the engine 800-850 bhp is something incredible and I will never forget that raw power. The brakes were also working very efficiently. In addition to the aero effect, the carbon brakes stopped the car immediately.
Road/normal street car brakes are made of steel, along with the brake pads. A Formula 1 car's brakes are made out of carbon fibre, including the brake pads. More stopping power in one of the most efficient ways possible.
DW - After a successful year racing F3 cars, was the Formula One car hard to adjust to? Was it what you expected at all?
ML - Mainly having to deal with the power of the engine maximizing the potential of the brakes. The rest was like what I've been doing for the majority of my life: driving fast.
DW - The F60 doesn't have traction control, because of this is it difficult to keep the car on the line you want, does it slide around a lot or does the grip from the tires and wings compensate for the loss of traction through the lack of electronic aids?
ML - Not having traction control for sure let's the car slide around more. In terms of set up, it really depends how the track/weather conditions are in reference to your car set up. The engineer/driver can get the car to slide more or less depending upon what they are looking for. Aerodynamics for sure help when not having traction control both under braking and acceleration. Remember that traction control also works on braking too.
DW - Did the car tend to oversteer or understeer at all or was there a perfect balance?
ML - Oversteer.
DW - Unlike a road car, an F1 car uses a hand clutch operated by two paddles on the steering wheel. How does this work?
ML - Its the same action like on your standard clutch pedal, instead that "pedal" is on your steering wheel. There are two levers on your steering wheel and they both have the same input's. It's a matter of that side, right or left, you with to use.
DW - People tend not to understand the physical demands of driving an F1 car, How much of an effect on your body did your first test have? Was it hard work?
ML - A lot of load on the neck and left leg. There's power steering so arms & chest were not used as much compared to Formula 3.
DW - You don't have KERS in F3, did you use it during your F1 test at all? What was that like?
ML - KERS wasn't used in the test.
DW - And finally, what's next for Michael Lewis? Anything in place for 2013?
ML - We'll let you know soon enough. Check out my website http://www.mjlracing.com in the meantime for updates and info on my racing.