by Russell Atkins

Oliver Jarvis is confident he could step into a Formula 1 car and be immediately on the pace, after enjoying his first taste of grand prix action courtesy of McLaren-Mercedes at Silverstone.

The F3 and A1GP front-runner was awarded the opportunity to step into one of the Woking outfit's 2006-spec MP4-21 machines as a prize for clinching the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award back in 2005. He was joined by Mercedes DTM star Paul di Resta, the recipient of the accolade the previous year, and it was an experience that has clearly whetted Jarvis' appetite for more.

"It was fantastic," the 23-year-old enthused, speaking after the test to Crash.net. "I was very excited beforehand, but you never quite know what to expect until you get there. I was really looking forward to it, but at the same time I didn't want to think too much about it. It was something I've always dreamed about, so I didn't want to get too nervous.

"The track was quite damp at first so we waited a couple of hours for it to dry out, then Pedro de la Rosa jumped in the car for an installation run to check everything was ok and the tyres were right for the conditions.

"When I pulled out of the pit-lane for the first time the acceleration was just incredible. It was the first time I've ever driven a Formula 1 car, but hopefully it won't be the last."

After completing 20 laps of the National circuit, Jarvis said it was not so much the braking that had struck him, as the acceleration of the 2.4-litre, V8 Mercedes-Benz powerplant.

"The day allowed us to appreciate and get a feel for what an F1 car is really all about," he underlined. "I didn't find it that difficult to adapt to everything, but one of the things you do need to get your head around - although of course it will disappear next year - is that you can just jump on the throttle and the computer will sort it all out. As a driver that goes completely against everything I've ever done through all the junior formulae. You have to re-teach your brain.

"The braking was fantastic - you can certainly hit the brakes very hard and the car just stops immediately - but what's even more impressive is the acceleration. You pull out of the pit-lane and go up through the gears from first to seventh in the space of seconds.

"It wasn't about the times - though as a racing driver you've always got your eye on them - but one thing it has made me realise is I now feel I could jump in an F1 car and do a good job. I would love that opportunity, but at the moment they are few and far between. I'm just going to keep pushing as hard as I can and see what comes my way."

The Cambridgeshire ace has certainly been pushing very hard indeed throughout 2007, narrowly missing out on the Japanese F3 Championship laurels in only his first season in the Far East, after similarly claiming the runner-up spot in his maiden British F3 campaign last year - ahead of current GP2 stars Bruno Senna and Christian Bakkerud.

"There are fewer drivers in Japan," he acknowledged, "but I actually think it's more competitive than British F3; the top three or four are some of the best drivers I've ever come across. Most of them have been doing it a couple of years and had more experience of the Bridgestone tyres than I did, but it really helped improve me as a driver.

"I was very frustrated to come so close and then have a battery failure in the last round. There were a number of times throughout the year when we were unlucky, but overall it was a fantastic experience and I learnt a lot."

Beyond that, Jarvis is keeping his racing instincts sharp over the traditionally quiet winter months by racing for Britain in the nation vs nation A1GP series. Having registered his country's debut victory in Mexico earlier this year, he went on to repeat that feat by triumphing in the opening round on the 2007/08 calendar at Zandvoort - to set Team GB's championship charge up in style.

"A1GP is fantastic," he stated. "It has slightly less power and the acceleration isn't as quick as an F1 machine - the A1GP car moves around a lot more in the corners - but it's been very good to me, and so far every time I've got in the car we've been reasonably quick.

"This season I would say there are six teams that can win the championship, and we are certainly one of them. We've just got to try to cut out the errors and make sure we finish consistently in the points. I see no reason why we can't arrive at the final round at Brands Hatch fighting for the title."

 

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