No sooner had the dust settled on the Silverstone round of the World Series by Renault, than drivers from the senior 3.5-litre class were headed to Enstone for a two-day internship at Lotus Renault GP's headquarters.
The unique event was the product of a partnership between Eric Boullier's F1 team and Renault Sport Technologies, and was hailed as a great success by all of the drivers who attended. The programme included a visit to the factory, a marketing presentation, media training and physical and driver training sessions. It also featured meetings and discussions with various members of the team, including Bruno Senna, who would be promoted to the second LRGP race seat in the days that followed.
“Above all, you need to be convinced that you want to make the step up to F1, and be sure that you want to be an F1 driver,” team principal Boullier told the youngsters, “You should want it for the chance to become true professionals, and not for the glitz, the money or the celebrity lifestyle. If you make the commitment, you'll find yourselves presented with opportunities that you'll need to be able to seize.”
The drivers arrived at Enstone on Monday morning, fresh from performing in front of 120,000 fans at Silverstone, and were immediately taken on a tour of the factory, where they were visibly impressed by the number of people involved in manufacturing and developing the team's two cars. They then visited the Computational Fluid Dynamics centre at the team's new 60 per cent scale wind tunnel, as well as the assembly workshop and design office – all of which gave them an insight into the process of creating and operating a F1 car.
“An F1 driver has to do a lot more than just drive,” explained Renault Sport Technologies MD Patrice Ratti, “A driver needs to have talent, but he also needs a certain amount of charisma, as well as natural leadership skills and the ability to attract sponsors. In addition, drivers need to know how to conduct themselves in the media spotlight, while keeping close bonds with the team around them. This is what we would like the World Series drivers to take away from this course.
With this aim in mind, the drivers attended a presentation detailing everything an F1 team expects from those it hires, with particular focus on the marketing aspect. After the presentation, the World Series stars took part in what proved to be a very informative media training session while, on day two, they performed a series of physical tests, before attending a Hungarian Grand Prix debriefing. This was followed by a question and answer session with Lotus Renault GP strategist Mathieu Dubois and Senna, before Boullier took the time to answer as many of their questions as possible.
“It's the third year in a row that we've staged this training course,” Emmanuel Esnault, sporting manager at Renault Sport Technologies, concluded, “As the years pass, more and more drivers show their interest in the course. Above all, it provides a great opportunity for them to acquire the key skills needed to fulfil their dream becoming F1 drivers. It also helps create bonds between the drivers, who very rarely get the chance to spend time together outside of race weekends.”
The next stage of the partnership between F1 team and ladder formula will see a number of World Series drivers spend a day with Lotus Renault at the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix at Monza. And, like every year, the 2011 series champion will take part in F1 rookie testing at the wheel of the current R31 in Abu Dhabi in November.