Britain’s Dean Smith, the 2009 Formula Renault UK Champion, has taken a step towards Formula 1 by lapping the Silverstone South circuit in a McLaren MP4-23 – the car that took Lewis Hamilton to the 2008 world championship.
The 22-year-old from Wolverhampton earned this test by winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award this time last year, and completed three six-lap runs during his first experience of an F1 car.
“Driving a Formula One car is something I've wanted to do all my life and to have actually achieved that aim, thanks to everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, really is a dream come true”, said Smith, who raced in GP3 this year, finishing seventh overall, making him the highest placed Brit in the series.
“When I went out on track for the first time it was pretty wet but that wasn't a problem, everything felt very comfortable and quite natural actually. We hit 185mph at the end of the main straight but it didn't feel massively different to cars I've raced and tested before, like the World Series by Renault car, because it's so smooth and well balanced. The McLaren Mercedes is absolutely awesome.
“I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to test the car. I'm really pleased with the job I did and the team told me how impressed they were too so it couldn't have gone any better. Thanks again to everyone who made it possible – it's made me more determined than ever to reach F1.”
Smith is now trying to secure the budget to race in GP3 again next year but, as he explains, his progression toward the pinnacle of motor sport is heavily dependent on the backing of investors and sponsors.
“It's never been a secret in my career – we've always struggled to get the budget together to make the next step on the ladder each time and that's the position we're in again now. As it stands, I've no idea where I'll be racing in 2011. Ideally, I want to be in GP3 again for a title push or even make the move to GP2 but the money required is massive.
“Even though we've always had to do things on a tight budget, we've had a lot of success – winning Formula BMW UK in 2005, Formula Renault UK in 2009 and the McLaren Autosport award. Now I've shown what I can do in an F1 car, it's more vital than ever to attract the sponsorship and investment we need.”