There is no forgetting your first time in a Formula 1 car and that is definitely the case for Jak Crawford, who was at the wheel of the Aston Martin AMR22 F1 car last week.

The DAMS Lucas Oil driver was in action as part of his Young Driver Development programme with the F1 team, getting to pilot the 2022 machine for a day around the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.

Reflecting on his big moment, Crawford could not hide his smile as he recounted just how it felt to be driving a Formula 1 car for the first time.

“It was my first time in a Formula 1 car, so it was a great experience and something I’ve been looking forward to for a while,” he said afterwards.

“It was pretty incredible. I was honestly a bit nervous on the day, just because it was my very first time in the car and I didn’t have an idea of what it was going to be like. But you get on track, put the throttle down and get a bit of wheel spin and I was thinking, ‘Oh we’ve got a lot of power’ so I the end it was a really cool experience and I’m really grateful for it.”

The day was more than about Crawford getting to turn some laps in F1 machinery. After the initial running designed to get him acquainted with the tools and car at his disposal was completed, the run plans became more focused.

Short and long-run programmes were completed throughout the day, and Crawford says that he was extremely happy with how things went across the board.

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“We got some good running in, focused in the morning on getting up to speed and getting used to the car, the downforce, the brakes, engine and the controls along with all the switches you can change. Then it was onto performance runs.

“Then in the afternoon it was more focused on longer runs, looking at learning the tyres, tyre management and that side of things. So overall it was a very, very good and positive day and I’m happy with how it went.”

Expanding on what he was able to achieve during the test, Crawford says that learning the ins and outs of a modern Formula 1 car was useful beyond building up his F1 experience.

Crawford hopes to take what he learned into the remainder of 2024 - Photo Aston Martin F1
Crawford hopes to take what he learned into the remainder of 2024 - Photo: Aston Martin F1

Comparing the experience with his F2 efforts, the American driver said it was very interesting to see just how differently the track can be attacked. He added that the approach to corners in particular differs greatly, but that he will be looking to take what he learned and apply it to racing when the F2 season resumes in Barcelona later this month.

“There’s lots of systems and controls you can change on an F1 car that you can’t do on an F2 car which you can change during the lap, so it’s more about optimising every corner. That’s the goal anyway.

"I won’t be back in the F2 car until Free Practice in Barcelona, so we’ll see how I can adapt it”

“In F2, it’s a bit more difficult because we can’t really change as much throughout the lap besides brake bias, so I think it was good to get that experience of what makes a corner quicker. You always think that when you do a corner, that’s the best you can do it when in fact, you can add stuff and use different tools to actually go a lot quicker.

“I think it’s quite interesting in that aspect. I obviously can’t take those tools back to the F2 car, but I can see how best to take the corners. I won’t be back in the F2 car until Free Practice in Barcelona, so we’ll see how I can adapt it.”

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Tyre management is another factor that is more important than ever in the top Championships in the FIA pyramid, and Crawford says that his F2 experiences also helped in this regard.

Using the Aston Martin simulator experience along with lessons from engineering meetings with Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll detailing the intricacies of the F1 cars, he was able to adapt his F2 learnings and add F1 thinking to make the most of his afternoon of race simulation running.

The DAMS Lucas Oil driver says his simulator work put him in a good place for the test - Photo Aston Martin F1
The DAMS Lucas Oil driver says his simulator work put him in a good place for the test - Photo: Aston Martin F1

“It helped definitely. I’ve had loads of time in the simulator, so I’ve been able to learn a lot about how to drive the car. I’ve also been able to listen in on the weekends on what the drivers are saying with the car and how they’re driving it and then comparing it to my F2 experience where I’ve acquired quite a bit of experience on the tyre management side of things, particularly with the tyre degradation. I felt that I was able to use that on the fly that afternoon when we did a bit more race running.”

With the first time in F1 machinery ticked off the bucket list, Crawford will continue his work with Aston Martin before refocusing his efforts on the F2 campaign with DAMS Lucas Oil. He says that being able to get behind the wheel of a racing car during the break was a hugely useful experience ahead of competitive action getting back underway.

“It was great to stay sharp. Everyone loves being in the car, let alone a Formula 1 car. It will have been a bit of a gap since Monaco before we get to Barcelona, so it was good to keep busy first of all, and driving the car gets you thinking about racing again.”