Racing heroes from either side of the Atlantic – former F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart – have been given a unique opportunity to see how the other half lives, by trying out each other's cars in the aftermath of last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
The pair both travelled to the Watkins Glen International circuit in upstate New York – home to the United States Grand Prix for 20 consecutive years between 1961 and 1980, and to NASCAR competition since 1986 – to trade places, with Hamilton climbing behind the wheel of Stewart's No.14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala NASCAR stock car, and the American lowering himself into the cockpit of the British star's title-winning 2008 McLaren-Mercedes MP4-23.
The adrenaline-fuelled 'Mobil 1 Car Swap' exhibition event – which took place in front of a crowd of enthusiastic race fans and motorsport journalists from around the globe – was organised by the two teams' shared lubricant technology partner, Mobil 1, the world's leading synthetic motor oil brand, to celebrate more than three decades' involvement at the highest level of motorsport. Both drivers enjoyed a few laps around The Glen's 3.4-mile, eleven-turn long course – and the experience clearly left them hungry for more.
“I'd always wondered what it would be like to get behind the wheel of a NASCAR stock car, because it's such a completely different experience from driving an F1 car”, enthused Hamilton. “Thanks to Mobil 1, I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity – not only did I get the chance to drive the car of Tony Stewart, a double NASCAR Champion, but I also got to share that experience by giving him the chance to drive my McLaren-Mercedes F1 car, too!
“NASCAR is a different world. Driving the No.14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet was a massive change from what I'm used to, but Tony was an excellent teacher and I quickly found a good rhythm – those cars are raw and powerful! They're fantastic fun to drive. It was a great day at Watkins Glen – this is a circuit with a great deal of F1 history behind it. Emerson Fittipaldi won McLaren their first drivers' and constructors' titles here back in 1974, and it's been fantastic to come and take in some of that history.”
In the year that marks the 50th anniversary of The Glen's inaugural grand prix, Stewart-Haas Racing ace Stewart was similarly effusive about having been able to take to the track in an F1 car. Much like Hamilton, the 40-year-old has established an impressive reputation for outstanding car control and sustained success across a number of racing disciplines – and as one of the most skilled drivers of his generation.
“I've always been intrigued by the open-wheel cars in F1 racing,” he confessed. “Feeling the power behind the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-23 was amazing, and being able to take it for a ride around the course in front of a crowd of avid race fans at a track like The Glen made it even more special – an experience that I'll never forget.”
ExxonMobil began its relationship with McLaren in 1995, since when the joint focus on technical innovation, performance, efficiency and reliability has helped to secure no fewer than four world championship crowns, 67 grand prix victories and 205 podium finishes.
2011 is the debut season for Mobil 1's co-primary sponsorship of Stewart's Sprint Cup Chevy, and its ninth consecutive campaign as the 'Official Motor Oil of NASCAR'. Mobil 1's motorsport adventure started in 1978 with Williams F1, and the company is also presently involved with Corvette Racing in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) as well as playing a leading role in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup.
“McLaren-Mercedes and Stewart-Haas Racing both rely on Mobil 1 lubricant technology to gain a competitive edge every time they hit the track,” underlined Rebecca K. Aldred, Mobil 1 global brand manager. “This friendly exhibition represented a tremendous opportunity for us to bring Lewis and Tony – two of our premier drivers – together to experience the demands of driving completely different types of race cars at a legendary track like Watkins Glen, and to remind racing fans of the Mobil 1 team's commitment and involvement in motorsport worldwide.”
To see a gallery of pictures from the Mobil 1 Car Swap, click here