Pocket-lint vs a Formula One driver

It’s the in-between time right now for Formula One, those select few months where the sport goes quiet and our Sunday television viewing switches to something far less exciting. However, soon the sport will return and no longer will our weekends be spent with Songs of Praise sat playing in the background.

Or perhaps not, as Formula One is due to make a major televisual shift, no longer being covered by the BBC entirely but getting its own dedicated channel on Sky. With the announcement that this channel is also going to be coming to Virgin Media, we couldn’t wait for the season to start much longer. So what did we do to get our Formula One fix? Simple… we raced one of the drivers.

The track

Thanks to the rather nifty sponsorship deal between Medion (who put on the event with its Erazer computers) and last season’s Force India driver Adrian Sutil, Pocket-lint managed to pit itself head to head against the current world number 9. Us being a technology site, we naturally had some gadgetry on hand to record the whole event, so we stuck a GoPro on his helmet and got racing.

The track we raced on was a two-floored affair down in London Bridge. Team Sport’s setup is one of the best in the country and more than enough floor space for us to get a good race on. Spread over 400 metres it features one single long straight, a complex upstairs section and a particularly nasty hairpin that both we and Sutil couldn't always get right.

This hairpin was to become the passing point for just about everyone in the race as many would overcook things on the straight and spin out. Pocket-lint, admittedly, did give some competitors the odd helping nudge, but this was only if they were far too slow and got in our way.

We found very quickly that any time we gained on the Formula One ace was during the wooded section, either that or by illegally overtaking under a red flag. Either way both seemed to work.

The drivers

Name
Pocket-lint                               Adrian Sutil
Weight
11 Stone                                   11.5 Stone
VIsion
Rubbish eyesight                     The eyes of a German hawk
Qualifications
No driving license                    Number 9 driver in the world
equipment
Fat hands                                 Cool racing gloves

Staring at the back of Sutil’s helmet while waiting to be sent out on track, looking at all the FIA stickers, we realised that we might be about to get utterly thrashed. Judging from Sutil’s pre-race attitude we will be honest, he didn’t seem massively worried. Still, we’d be dammed if Pocket-lint wasn't going to make some sort of an impression on the driver.

Sutil is used to taking on the world’s racing elite, many of whom, himself included, have been driving in go-karts since before they could walk. Getting to a Formula One level of skill is something that only a select few in the world are capable of and requires reactions many times faster than the average human being.

Luckily, hours spent playing games like Dance Central and Wii Sports Resort meant Pocket-lint was also relatively quick in the reaction department. We were also once crowned Bat the Rat champion at our local school fete, which we felt put us in pretty good stead. It didn’t.

The karts

Sure they aren’t exactly Formula-One-car fast, but speeding up to 40mph virtually instantly from an electric go kart is actually pretty quick. Presumably it felt slower than going backwards to Sutil, but for us there was a few genuinely hairy moments.

In order to get close to the Formula One driver we needed to virtually burn the engine to pieces. The brake had little point to its existence other than from stopping us crashing head on into a wall during a downhill section of the track, which we did on multiple occasions.

One rather major problem the electric karts presented was that as laps went on, a loss in charge would mean slower times. Our tech wizardry could do nothing to help either, as the plug sockets which gave the karts their juice were closely monitored by staff. Just to put things in context and give you an idea of the sort of vehicles Formula One drivers use, we asked Sutil how loud the engine was in his Force India car.

He explained to us that even with a helmet on and custom built earplugs, it was near deafening for an entire race. We decided to check this and came across this video of a Formula One Renault engine spinning up. They idle at 10,000 rpm, which is about twice that of your normal Nissan Micra would manage flat out.

The race

Before we get started on the race itself, we are going to give you a bit of a clue about the outcome… we lost. Surprised? Well what might amaze you is that it wasn’t by much and that for a brief moment, we were in fact ahead of Sutil.

At the start of the race we pretty much had our tactics worked out. Setting ouy from fourth in the grid, we dived down the inside of just about everyone, forcing them to either crash out or let us past. This immediately stuck us in second place behind the Grand Prix driver. He then flew off into the distance while we gradually caught up to him.

Filmed using a GoPro HD Hero 2

A brief tussle in the complex double hairpin section above the track put us back into third, with Sutil battling it out with another racer. These two wasted enough time duelling that we could then put ourselves back into first. This then resulted in probably the most difficult 5 minutes of driving in our lives. Sutil knew exactly where we could see him out of our peripheral vision, and would leap at the chance to throw us off by getting as close as possible to our behind on every turn.

This tactic would have worked had we not slammed the brakes on and forced him to smash into the back of us. Unperturbed, Sutil then proceeded to play dirty himself, pushing us out on the bend following the track’s straight. Cries of cheat from the rest of the Pocket-lint gang were heard, but no red flag given. The result was a win for Adrian but a rather pleased third place for Pocket-lint (yes we made a mistake and lost a position).

However, the F1 driver was still impressed, shook our hands post race and made a serious Formula One fan very happy indeed. Despite lacking all the technology and speed of Formula One we still had a massively good time. We can’t help but think of what the result might have been had we both been sat in Force India Formula One cars. Most likely us dead and Sutil long gone in the distance. We can dream.

Any driving tips for Pocket-lint? Let us know in the comments below...