F1 Hopeful Impresses at McLaren Test
British driver Dean Smith joins an elite group of drivers after becoming the latest aspiring Formula One hopeful to actually have the opportunity to test an F1 car with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. The 2009 Formula Renault UK Champion, earned the life-changing experience by winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award this time last year, delivered a great performance on his F1 test debut and is now hungrier than ever to fight his way into the pinnacle of motor racing. Very few drivers ever get the opportunity to even sit in the cockpit of an active F1 car, let alone take to the track. So Dean made the most of every second behind the wheel of the MP4-23 McLaren Mercedes on a wet Silverstone Circuit. Speaking about the experience shortly afterwards Dean said: "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" The 22-year-old from Wolverhampton, impressed the team with his pace, application and professionalism. Dean improved with each session and got significantly faster in each of his three, six-lap runs. Feeling comfortable with the car from the start, Smith rapidly got used to the immense braking power of the McLaren and the awe-inspiring corner speed and produced a great showing. "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." With his Formula One test fresh in his mind, Dean is now working harder than ever to secure the budget to race in F1 support category GP3 again next year. Debuting in the championship in 2010 after winning the 2009 Formula Renault UK title and the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, he ended the 2010 as the best placed Briton in seventh place overall. Smith added: "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."