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1 September 2010

Nabil Jeffri becomes youngest F1 test driver

The Imperial War Museum runway at Duxford played host to the youngest ever test driver in Formula One history today, with 16 year old Nabil Jeffri seeing his F1 dream come true as he conducted a day of aero testing for Lotus Racing on the museums Cambridgeshire runway. Fairuz Fauzy and Heikki Kovalainen were both on hand to lend their advice to the young Malaysian and Nabil, a key member of the AirAsia ASEAN Driver Development programme, completed the days testing, and gave the team valuable pitstop practice throughout a busy day on track for the Anglo Malaysian squad.

Stepping out of the car at the end of the day, Nabil was understandably excited about his day behind the wheel of the T127, saying I have had an incredible day, one of the best days of my life, and I want to thank Lotus Racing, Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne for giving me the chance to drive their car. I have to admit that the first time I went out it was pretty scary everyone told me the acceleration would be unbelievable, and the braking would be so much greater than anything Ive ever experienced, and it took a while to get used to that, but Heikki and Fairuz gave me some advice on how to settle in to it, and after a while I was more comfortable, and was able to get through the days plan. Its such an honour to have had this opportunity, and itll be a long time before the excitement wears off, but Ill keep on working hard to one day join Heikki, Fairuz, Jarno and the rest of the F1 grid, and with the support of people like Tony and Lotus Racing, Ive got a great chance of doing so.

Also at the test was Lotus Racing driver Heikki Kovalainen, who joined the test to give Nabil some invaluable advice: Its a great experience for Nabil and its really good to see how well he did. Hes obviously very young, and hell remember this experience for the rest of his life. When you feel the power of a Formula One car for the first time its an incredible feeling and I told him to enjoy it, and not get stressed about trying to impress everyone too much. He did a great job today - he quickly picked up the correct procedures, and was working well with the whole team, which is pretty awesome when you think weve got the proper race team here today which could have been a bit daunting. Its also great to see Lotus Racing investing in young talent, and were showing that the ladder to success in F1 is there for anyone, wherever they are in the world, which is pretty cool, however you look at it.

On hand to oversee the test was Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne, who said Im delighted that Nabil has done such a good job and Id like to thank him for the work he put in today. Aero testing is an important part of the ongoing development of the car, and its great that we can give an opportunity to someone as young as Nabil to help us take another step forward. He completed the planned programme, gave clear and precise feedback, and we couldnt ask any more of him than that. Im sure this experience will help him take another step forward in his career, and well be keeping a close eye on him to see if what hes learnt today can help him take that next step up, in performance terms, in the Asian Formula BMW Championship.

Team Principal Tony Fernandes was keeping a close eye on the days proceedings from his office in Malaysia, and said When I first offered Nabil the chance to drive our car he couldnt tell if I was joking or not, but I was very serious about giving a young Malaysian the chance to step up to the big time. Hes repaid my faith in him and has performed incredibly well, and thats a source of real pride for me as he proves what Ive always believed keep dreaming, work hard to achieve what other people tell you is impossible, and your dreams will come true. I suspect Nabil will head back to Malaysia with his head spinning from everything thats happened to him today, but now he can say hes driven an F1 car, and that will set his sights at the very top for the rest of his life. Congratulations Nabil youre a superstar!