While watching a Formula One race on TV, it’s difficult to comprehend what a driver is experiencing inside the cockpit. The only way to truly wrap your head around it is by riding shotgun with a racing driver on a flying lap.
Ride alongs, though often given in road cars, are the closest you likely will ever come to getting an up-close look at a Grand Prix racer at work. They also allow you to experience nearly everything drivers do during races — which sometimes includes jumping out of your car as quickly as possible because it’s on fire.
AR12Gaming writer Tom Matthews recently spent a day with Sahara Force India and its 20-year-old driver, Esteban Ocon, practicing driving Silverstone Circuit on a simulator before heading out on track with Ocon behind the wheel. Their first flying lap was cut short, however, when flames started shooting out of their Ariel Atom just as Ocon was approaching Brooklands.
Matthews admittedly took a while to realize why Ocon was pulling over, but we can’t really fault him for that, as he likely isn’t used to looking in his rearview mirror to check for flames. Thankfully, though, once he noticed the blaze, he got out of the car very quickly.
His evacuation time might have been a hair over the FIA’s mandatory 5-second maximum, though considering it probably was his first emergency exit, that’s pretty impressive.