Force India development driver Nikita Mazepin admits he was braced for a “scary” experience ahead of his first Formula One outing at Silverstone, so was pleased to enjoy a smooth debut at the wheel.
Mazepin was signed by Force India last winter, with team principal Vijay Mallya saying the Russian youngster would be used “extensively”.
The 17-year-old clocked the fifth fastest time on the opening day of the final in-season test held at the British Grand Prix venue, completing 35 laps in a rain-affected session.
“I feel really happy, didn’t really struggle as much as I was expecting because everyone was saying Formula One is something scary and something really fast, I didn’t feel like it,” Mazepin said.
“The car was very good thanks to the team. The drivers helped me out over the weekend, you obviously have a whole weekend to set the car up so I was driving a decent car already.
“It went pretty smoothly. We weren’t very happy with the weather in the afternoon, quite limited on tyres and didn’t want to grain them too much. So we had to stop the testing a bit early but I think the morning went quite smoothly. A lot of testing had to be done and most of it was done by the morning so a productive day.”
Still, Mazepin acknowledges the important step there is from the FIA European Formula Three championship he is contesting this year to driving an F1 car.
“I was just saying earlier that the lap time I did [on Tuesday] was 30 seconds quicker than anything I’ve done around Silverstone. I can imagine you guys know it’s quite a lot!
“It’s great. It’s great to be able to do that. It’s good to feel that there’s so much room for improvement, which is just an enjoyable environment to work in and it’s just good.”
Asked about the biggest challenge between F1 and the other series he has been competing in, the Force India protégé is quick to highlight the mental challenge grand prix racing represents.
“I would say from the actual driving side it’s the concentration you have to keep because I have a lot of distractions that I’m not so used to at the moment. The steering wheel [dials] have to be in the right position otherwise you'll destroy the engine.
“Traffic management … I was quite lucky there wasn’t many cars on track, and then obviously communicating with the engineers because they’re passing you some important information although it’s limited now.”
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