Past, present and future came together at Silverstone on Friday when 26 year-old Swede Alx Danielsson, champion of the 2006 World Series by Renault, got his first taste of Formula 1 with the ING Renault F1 Team.
The 1977 British Grand Prix was a milestone race in the annals of Formula 1 history. Not only did that summer's afternoon see the Renault RS01 Turbo make a faltering first step onto the F1 stage, but it was also the last time a Swede achieved a podium finish at the British Grand Prix, when Gunnar Nilsson guided his Lotus to third position at Silverstone.
Earlier in the same decade, Ronnie Peterson had attacked the wide, open sweeps of the airfield circuit with irrepressible enthusiasm in his Lotus 72 on his way to two second- place finishes. In 2007, the thirtieth anniversary of Renault's F1 debut, it was therefore appropriate that the French manufacturer underlined its commitment to young talent as it gave young Swede Alx Danielsson his first experience of Formula 1 at Silverstone, driving the world champion R26 car as his prize for winning the 2006 World Series by Renault.
Alx was invited by the ING Renault F1 Team to conduct the technical shakedown of the two R26 chassis that will be used in the forthcoming Warsaw Roadshow demonstration on the streets of the Polish capital in two weeks' time.
Running on the short 1km Stowe circuit within the perimeter of the famous Silverstone Grand Prix track, Alx completed a total of 50 laps as he shook down two examples of the title-winning R26: chassis R26-04 (raced by Giancarlo Fisichella from Silverstone to Brazil; 45 points and 3 podiums in USA, China and Japan) and R26-01, which served as the team's T-car throughout last season.
In front of nearly 50 international media, the young Swede used the early laps to get acclimatised to the car and the twisty circuit, before tuning the car to his driving style, with changes to the ride heights and traction control mapping. He acquitted himself well, running consistent lap-times as he explored the potential performance of the car.
"It has been a fantastic day," enthused Alx as he stepped from the R26. "For any driver, it is a dream to have your first drive at the wheel of an F1 car, and this has been a great opportunity for me. From a personal point of view, my aim was to find my feet in the car and see how quickly I could be in a position to attack the circuit. I was pleased when I began driving, because everything felt very natural from the start. After a few acclimatisation runs we made some set-up changes, and I started to get a good feel for the potential performance of a top Formula 1 car.
"Of course, now I have had my first taste, I want more – but this has been a fantastic way to start, driving a championship car in a great environment. I want to say a special thank you to the ING Renault F1 Team: they have made this a dream day for me, and also helped take all Formula 1 fans in Sweden closer to the heart of the sport with their open, friendly approach."
The ING Renault F1 Team's showcar co-ordinator Colin Hale, who heads up technical operations for the team's Renault F1 Roadshow programme, commented:
"We already knew Alx was an intelligent, talented young driver before today: his track record so far speaks for itself, and our contact with him during preparations for this run left us impressed. He settled in to the car and the circuit very well today. We asked him to run both chassis in preparation for our demonstration run in Warsaw, and he did a very good job. He took a sensible approach, built up his confidence step by step, and showed a good understanding of how the car was working. All in all, he did a very good job."