Former Formula One driver and race winner Riccardo Patrese returned to the cockpit of an F1 car for the first time in 15 years today at Jerez, as he tested a Honda RA107, the team's 2007 race car. Patrese was the long-time holder of the record for most Grand Prix starts, and after playing a big part in Rubens Barrichello's celebrations for breaking his record, Honda offered him the unique opportunity to test the latest F1 machinery.
Patrese raced in F1 between 1977 and 1993 with Shadow, Arrows, Brabham, Alfa Romeo, Williams and finally Benetton, and only in May did Barrichello break his record, when the Brazilian started his 257th race at the Turkish Grand Prix. After completing reconnaissance laps of the Jerez circuit in a Honda Civic Type-R to familiarise himself with the layout, the Italian completed five runs on Bridgestone demonstration tyres. His fastest lap was a 1m30.210s, compared to last year's fastest time at the track of 1m18.589s, set by Toyota's Jarno Trulli in March of 2007.
Talking about the experience, Riccardo Patrese said, “After 15 years out of Formula One, it was a dream come true and unbelievable to rediscover the speed of a Formula One car again today. I was able to get accustomed pretty quickly and found that my driving style did not need to change too much to adapt to a modern car. The speed was a bit of a surprise on the first couple of laps but at the end I felt very comfortable, although I'm sure my neck will ache a little bit tonight after the G forces. The whole experience has been an absolute pleasure and I would like to thank the Honda Racing F1 Team for giving me this feeling back and allowing me the opportunity to drive a really fast car again! It's good to know that at my age, I can still drive quickly and push the limits. I just wish that I could have had more time in the car to improve my lap time. Hopefully they'll give me another chance sometime!”
Nick Fry, Chief Executive Officer of the Honda Racing F1 Team commented, “We are delighted to have been able to arrange this opportunity for Riccardo to drive the RA107, the first time that he has been back in a Honda Formula One car since the final race of the 1987 season where he raced for Williams-Honda in Adelaide. Riccardo adapted very well to the car today and there was plenty for him to get to grips with as Formula One has advanced so rapidly since his final race in 1993 and continues to do so with the introduction of new environmental technologies. Left foot braking, grooved tyres and a steering-wheel mounted clutch paddle were all new for Riccardo today, and his fastest lap time was very respectable considering that he was using demonstration tyres and a 2007 car. The team thoroughly enjoyed working with Riccardo today and we are delighted to have made his dream of returning to Formula One for a day come true!”