TESTING TALK WITH NOBUHARA MATSUSHITA

McLaren-Honda test and development driver - and multiple Formula 2 race winner - Nobuhara Matsushita, took on the twisting Hungaroring circuit in a Formula 1 car this week.

The Honda Young Driver got behind the wheel for the Sauber F1 Team on day 2 of their scheduled test. We caught up with Nobu at the end of the day, to ask how the session went and whether it lived up to his boyhood expectations.

So how was today’s run?

Today’s programme was focused on long distance runs, 15 laps in each block. The car’s grip was so much better than what I’m used to, allowing me to make full use of the kerbs when cornering - that was a real surprise. I did start to feel some tyre degradation after about 5 laps into each effort. However, I was also impressed by the quality of braking, which helped a lot as as it fits my driving style.

How did you feel this morning before you stepped into the car?

That the time has finally come. I had been waiting for this moment since my childhood. It was so exciting. Also, I noticed how everything felt like a step up from what I’m used to in F2. The garage, the team, the data, the preparation – it’s all at another level.

How did you feel about the width of the car and tyres?

It looks very wide, but I didn’t feel any difficulty on the track. Of course, I think I might have felt a bit differently about it if I’d been running on a narrow circuit such as Monaco. Those barriers felt close enough in an F2 car, so in F1 – with the wider tyres and faster speeds – it would be quite a challenge I’m sure.

What elements of the test did you find more difficult than your expectation?

Overheating the tyre was definitely more difficult than I expected, especially in sector 3. Although it was certainly easier than mananging a tyre throughout an F2 race! That said, we weren’t really focusing on tyre management today. Normally with a long run or a race you would take care of the tyre much more. I think in a race situation I would have been able to manage it by slightly adapting the way I was driving the car.

Is there anything that you felt easier than your original expectation?

I found it easier to take the high speed corners, as the down force was very high. Also, I didn’t need to worry so much about the limits of brake performance like I do in F2. Instead, I could push as hard as I wanted.

How did it feel in those high speed corners?

It reminded me a bit of Japanese Super Formula. Much faster than F2, but I didn’t feel it was scary. That said, I was running with high fuel for the long runs, so the heavier car would hold the track better around the corner. On a light fuel run I’m sure it would be quite a thrill.

Were you keen to do a flying lap with low fuel?

Yes, if I could have done a performance lap I think I could have demonstrated the strong elements of my driving style, by being late on the brakes into the corners. I think I could have been 1 sec faster.

Was it disappointing that you didn’t do the hot lap?

Not at all. It was still an amazing experience.

What were the physical demands like on your body when you were in the car?

I completed 121 laps and drank 6 litres of water! I think it all came out as sweat, as I still felt dehydrated. It was a very hot day today and even hotter in the cockpit. I didn’t have any problems physically during the programme but, with the enormous G forces on my body all day today, I suspect I might have a few aches in my muscles tomorrow!

Did you make any mistakes today?

In the very first run in the morning, I immediately found out the brakes worked very well. So I pushed a little too hard which made me spin off. I thought I may have crashed but it was okay. I guess it’s just about finding the limits. You don’t know where your limit is until you push it a little too far!

Nobu will be back in action at Spa Francorchamps on 25-27 August, for Round 8 of the hotly contested 2017 F2 championship.