Riccardo Patrese got his first taste of Formula One for 15 years when he joined the Honda Racing F1 Team for an outing in one of its RA107s at Jerez on Tuesday, and admitted that the experience had been 'a dream come true'.
The Italian, who won six races during a 17-year Formula One career that stretched from 1977 to 1993, completed five runs and set a fastest time of 1min 30.210secs on Bridgestone demonstration tyres used especially for his 'guest' drive.
"After 15 years out of Formula One, it was a dream come true and unbelievable to rediscover the speed of a Formula One car again today," said Patrese, who has made sporadic F1-esque outings in the now-defunct GP Masters series since his retirement.
"I was able to get accustomed pretty quickly and found that my driving style did not need to change too much to adapt to a modern car. The speed was a bit of a surprise on the first couple of laps but, at the end, I felt very comfortable - although I'm sure my neck will ache a little bit tonight after the G forces.
"The whole experience has been an absolute pleasure and I would like to thank the Honda Racing F1 Team for giving me this feeling back and allowing me the opportunity to drive a really fast car again! It's good to know that, at my age, I can still drive quickly and push the limits. I just wish that I could have had more time in the car to improve my lap time - hopefully, they'll give me another chance sometime!"
Ironically, Patrese only once sampled Honda power during his lengthy F1 career - largely running with Cosworth, BMW, Alfa Romeo, Judd, Renault and Ford during that time - but team CEO Nick Fry confirmed that he had quickly got to grips with the 2007-spec car.
"We are delighted to have been able to arrange this opportunity for Riccardo to drive the RA107, the first time that he has been back in a Honda F1 car since the final race of the 1987 season, where he raced for Williams-Honda in Adelaide," he said.
"Riccardo adapted very well to the car today and there was plenty for him to get to grips with, as Formula One has advanced so rapidly since his final race in 1993 and continues to do so with the introduction of new environmental technologies. Left foot braking, grooved tyres and a steering-wheel mounted clutch paddle were all new for Riccardo today, and his fastest lap time was very respectable considering that he was using demonstration tyres and a 2007 car.
"The team thoroughly enjoyed working with Riccardo today and we are delighted to have made his dream of returning to Formula One for a day come true!"