We all know that two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso has quit racing in the premier single-seater with a focus on the Indy 500. There was a very thoughtful good-bye too right after the Spaniard’s final race in Abu Dhabi, and I sure will miss seeing him on the grid (to be precise, on TV).
Yet, right after that final race he immediately went to Bahrain for a special project – a car swap with NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson. Put simply, the seven-time NASCAR champion gets to drive a McLaren F1 car while Fernando gets seat time in a NASCAR.
Now, the two cars can hardly be any more different between each other. One is a 725hp (or 445hp on certain high-speed tracks) V8 race car with a sedan-ish body that weighs a minimum of 1,451kg, and on banked corners which it races on, can pull up to 5Gs. The other a bit more of lateral Gs, weigh half that, with just as much power. Oh yeah, the F1 car used is the MP4/28 from 2013 thus had the non-hybrid engine (last of the V8 generation!).
It turned out that Jimmie got to a few tenths of Fernando’s benchmark time set earlier in the day in the McLaren – although I have to add that that was also the first time Fernando had driven the MP4/28. The retired F1 driver also did pretty well driving Jimmie's car considering that the NASCAR machine had a lot less traction. Jimmie Johnson on the other hand, was clearly impressed by the McLaren’s performance especially in braking.
Also, what's a fun car swap during the off-season without doing a few donuts, right?