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During my initial experience with an F1 simulation, I surprisingly lost control and veered off the track, resulting in a collision.
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During my initial experience with an F1 simulation, I surprisingly lost control and veered off the track, resulting in a collision.


The initial actions of operating a Formula One vehicle, or rather, imitating its operation, involve a process similar to practicing yoga: removing your shoes. I ascend two small platforms positioned beside a life-size replica of a Lotus E20 racing car. I slide into a deep abyss that positions me close to the ground. The owner of the racing simulator, David, dubs it the “tub of death”, explaining, “You can grasp the size and athleticism of the drivers.” I extend my legs to reach the pedals. In actual cars, the seat conforms to the driver’s physique. However, here it feels more like sitting in a spherical object, resembling a bowling ball.

The similarities between yoga and bowling end here as the intensity picks up. I am curious to experience the rush of traveling at high speeds. However, due to a eye condition, I have not driven in 8 years. So, I try a racing simulator in Sydney which displays the Melbourne grand prix track on a curved screen with basic graphics, mimicking a clear and sunny day.

After getting into the car, I need to shift gears. David shows me how to do this using the paddle shifts located on the sides of the steering wheel. As someone who has not learned how to drive a stick shift, I am concerned that I may struggle with this automatically. However, it is not my biggest concern as I start a practice race.

Backview of a driver in a F1 simulation car, looking a screen depicting a mock race track

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I have difficulty with taking sharp turns rather than speed. It is possible for anyone with a tendency to drive fast to press down hard on the gas pedal and reach a speed of 250km/h on a straight road, which is what I tend to do. As the minimalistic scenery on the screen flies by, the engine roars with loud revs. However, no matter how much I try to brake ahead of time, I still end up dangerously sliding off the track and colliding with the gravel and safety barriers. At one particularly tight curve, I turn the steering wheel with such intensity that it continues to spin rapidly even after I crash into a wall, as if protesting my reckless driving.

“I have no control over this!” I exclaim. “Sounds like you’re channeling a true F1 driver,” David remarks dryly. “They never take responsibility for anything.”

I try a complete lap around the Melbourne grand prix circuit, which spans 5.303 kilometers, after a brief trial run. The entire race consists of 58 laps and the current record for completing one lap was set by Sergio Pérez in 2023, with a time of one minute and 20.235 seconds. Pérez can cover more than 5 kilometers in less time than it takes to cook instant noodles.

Jennifer Wong looks happy in a F1 replica race car

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Close-up of an F1 simulation steering wheel

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On the other hand, it takes me about 30 seconds to recover from my more intense crashes by quickly switching the car into reverse and getting back onto the road. I spend a lot of time recuperating from one sharp turn, resulting in a 17-second lock on my controls. This often leads to a timeout for the session, which sets a record in itself, but unfortunately does not come with a prize or the pressure to do a shoey.

After exiting the Lotus E20, I reflect on the immense effort required to stay on course and achieve success. The 20 racers navigating around Albert Park will cover a distance nearly equivalent to that between Sydney and Canberra, while enduring gravitational forces that can reach up to five times their own body weight. Their teams are also well-versed in speed and quick reflexes, able to replace all four tires in under two seconds.

Picture yourself being in that kind of shape and having that level of mental acuity. I had no predetermined ideas about F1, but once I experienced sitting in the driver’s seat, I am no longer impartial.

  • The Spitfire Sim Racing Centre located in Sydney provides an experience of a replica Formula One car in a simulation setting. The Australian F1 Grand Prix will commence in Melbourne on Sunday, March 24th at 3pm AEDT.

  • Jennifer Wong’s latest stand-up performance, titled The Sweet and Sour of Power, will be featured at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from April 9th to 21st. After that, she will also be performing in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, and Canberra.

Source: theguardian.com