Getting a grip in the wet

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“If you choose to race in the UK, you are going to get wet,” warns the MSA’s Go Motorsport video for novice racers. My last session at Silverstone may not have been in the rain, but the track was soaking wet and slippery following a downpour the night before.

This was my first experience learning wet lines. The dry racing line is polished by the passage of thousands of cars, meaning the surface of the quick dry line becomes like an ice rink in the wet. Add rubber oil and grease to the picture, and the familiar line becomes an unwelcoming place to be.

My instructor, Anthony, demonstrated the difference in grip levels by starting me on a normal dry line. The Megane I was driving understeered for what seemed like an eternity through Copse and Luffield, and twitched nervously coming into Maggots and Becketts.

Next, wet lines. He got me to avoid turning in where you normally would, going deeper and round the outside of corners to avoid the apex and pick up the less-used tarmac. The difference was extraordinary. There was so much more grip available that the understeer vanished, and braking in the middle of the track reduced the nervous back end stepping out. It was almost like driving in the dry in comparison to the normal racing line. Crossing the racing line makes you really feel the difference in grip. As I began to push more, I had a few moments – a slight tank-slapper coming out Brooklands and a few eye-widening slides coming back onto Club Straight. But my confidence increased as I began to attack Copse and improved my line through Maggots.

It was almost a dream track day – apart from one first-timer in a Porsche Boxster, the track was empty. As I left, Sky Sports were preparing to film a feature on the ARDS test which will appear in their F1 coverage soon.

Overall, another fantastically fun day, another great lesson and another eye-opening step on my journey to learn to race.

Silverstone’s National Circuit

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Monza

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I attended my first ever F1 race this weekend, and it was a good one: the Italian Grand Prix at legendary Monza, north-east of Milan.The circuit staff were fairly relaxed, making it easy to get really close to the cars and the track (see above).

The track is set in a genuinely beautiful park – a far cry from Silverstone’s grey fields of tarmac. Highlights included inadvertently bumping into Alonso in his road car, being greeted by the affable Davide Valsecchi and finding half the paddock in the EasyJet queue on the way home (including John Surtees, Max Chilton and Johnny Herbert)

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Watching from Parabolica, it seemed evident that Vettel took a different line from the other front-runners. Perhaps able to carry more speed in, and certainly with visibly better turn-in (he seemed to oversteer rather than understeer through the turn for most of the early part of the race), it was fascinating to see the one of the details marking out his fourth season of dominance.

Despite the boos and whistles of the Tifosi, it is difficult not to admire the clear superiority of the car from Milton Keynes.

Did it make for a ‘boring’ race? No, no, no. Vettel may need to part ways with Adrian Newey to truly test himself against the field, and perhaps 2014 regulations will bring a freshening unpredictability to the grid, but for me it didn’t matter this weekend.

The smell of carbon brakes, deafening engines and the truly stunning craftsmanship of the drivers made it one of the best events I’ve ever seen in person.