Pierre Gasly finally got to live out a scenario that has been going round and round in his head for years as he made his F1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso during Tuesday's F1 group test in Barcelona.
With only one regular race driver allowed to take part in the two-day session at the Circuit de Catalunya, a number of new faces were on parade at the Spanish Grand Prix venue, with Frenchman Gasly becoming the latest Red Bull protégé to step into one of the drinks brand's F1 cars.
Although his day was brought to a slightly premature end by a technical issue still under investigation in the STR garage, the GP2 Series frontrunner completed 126 timed laps en route to seventh on the day one timesheets, clocking a 1m 27.639s best lap to be in touch with the midfield runners.
“It was exceptional!” Gasly enthused, “The first time you jump in an F1 car, it is something really special for a driver. I have dreamt of this since I was really young.
“At the beginning, I wanted to get as much experience as I could, and I think that is what we did. We did 131 laps, so it was a lot of experience. It was really useful for me and I could enjoy driving the car.
“You have so many people who work on the car at the same time just for you, it just helps you do the job well. I have tried to take as much experience and give good feedback - and also, for them to tell me my feedback was good, it was interesting. It is quite impressive at the beginning because you have 20 people around the car, but you get used to it and you want to live the situation again.”
Stepping up to GP2 this season has allowed Gasly to close the performance gap from previous championships, but he reveals that F1 remains a cut above in more ways than one.
“Even though the gap with GP2 is not much, everything feels so much better,” he confirmed before attempting to compare both with his previous Renault World Series steed, “I think the GP2 car is probably a bit closer to F1 because, in GP2, you use the same tyres, so it is more or less the same driving. I would say GP2 is a bit closer but, from 3.5, you can still make the jump. You have a lot of downforce, which is similar to F1, so you can adapt yourself quite quickly when jumping in an F1 car. [Kevin] Magnussen did it and finished second on his first race weekend, so it is possible to do it from 3.5 and GP2.”
As usual with F1 first-timers, it wasn't necessarily the speed that blew Gasly away, with the brakes and G-forces catching his attention.
“I think, under braking, [the G-force] is higher and, in the corners, it is more or less the same [as GP2],” he noted, “You have more power and you are faster on the straights, but I think, in minimum speed, you are a bit quicker, although not so much quicker compared to GP2. It just feels so much better in the car with the power steering - it is really easy to turn the car how you want.
“For me, power steering is the main difference. It gives you a lot of information about the front grip and, in the F1 car, I had to really adapt this morning to feel it. It is very light, so you have a bit less information about the potential on the front, so I had to work a bit on it. Braking is efficient in F1, downshifts were good but power steering was the main difference. It is a great car!”
Not satisfied with a one-day debut, Gasly switches over the sister Red Bull Racing team for the second day of running, replacing regular pilot Daniil Kvyat in the car which finished fourth-fastest on Tuesday. The Frenchman will already be familiar with the surroundings of the RB11, having taken advantage of time in the team's Milton Keynes simulator prior to the test.
“I had a couple of days in the sim at Red Bull so I was used to it,” he said of his first run in the most complex cockpit he has yet had to deal with, “It is fortunate because you have to manage many buttons on the steering wheel, which keeps you really busy compared to GP2, where you are focused on yourself and your driving. Fortunately I got used to it in the simulator in the winter and I knew already a bit how to do.
"It was awesome and I am happy to have done it with Toro Rosso. I will do all my best to jump in again soon!”