Jan Charouz got his first taste of Formula One power as he drove last year's Renault R29 in a brief shakedown at Silverstone yesterday [18 March].
The Czech has recently earned a reputation as a leading sportscar driver, having won the 2009 Le Mans Series title, but has reverted to his single-seater roots after being included on Renault F1's reserve squad this season. He will campaign a P1 Motorsport entry in this year's World Series by Renault championship, having previously raced F3, GP2 and A1GP machinery. He could yet combine outings in the 'new' AutoGP series with his WSbR commitments.
With construction work ongoing at the Silverstone, Charouz's Renault shakedown took place on the National layout, where he completed 20 laps in last year's troubled R29. The outing was initially scheduled for the end of February, but had to be postponed due to the amount of snow on the circuit.
“It was an amazing experience," Charouz admitted, "Overall, I ran 20 laps and, in the first ten, I was getting used to the new driving style. In the following five laps, I found a lot more confidence and, in the last five laps, I felt much more comfortable in the car.
"To shake down the R29 was a great feeling. Actually, before the shakedown began, I hadn't been nervous at all, but then a few people called me, asking what would be happening, and congratulating me, and then, to be honest, I got a little bit nervous. However, when I started driving, I immediately calmed down and focused only on the driving.
"If I compare the R29 to other single-seaters I have driven, the GP2 car is the most similar. But, in fact, you can't compare F1 to anything, as it is much faster, it requires faster reactions, and has more forces in the corners. It's a car from another world! ”
New team principal Eric Boullier confirmed that there was nothing significant about the outing, although Charouz can be expected to play a part in Renault's ongoing roadshow programme now that he has experience of the F1 machine.
“For any driver, the chance to drive an F1 car for the first time is an important career milestone and a special moment," Boullier noted, "Today, Jan had his chance and his attitude and feedback were very good. This was simply a shakedown of last year's cars, so he only covered 20 laps, but he had a good feel for the car. Having some miles under his belt gives Jan some valuable experience and will inspire him to continue working hard in his role as one of our reserve drivers.”
Charouz lines up alongside Ho-Pin Tung and Jerome d'Ambrosio in Renault's development squad, while F1 veteran Robert Kubica and rookie Vitaly Petrov are charged with competing in this year's F1 world championship.
“Today was a great experience for Jan, and I appreciate I am involved in something special to have a driver in the Renault F1 Team Driver Programme," the Czech's father and manager, Antonin, commented, "Obviously, I know it doesn't mean that Jan will certainly drive in F1, but it is an amazing experience and motivation for him to work hard and do the best he can to enter the F1 environment.”