6 people you never knew drove F1 cars

Did you know that these famous names of track and screen have all tested Formula One cars?
By Tom Bellingham

It’s the dream of most drivers to one day get behind the wheel of a Formula One car, but only a small number ever get the opportunity.

We trawled through the history books to find some people you may never have known had the chance to sample an F1 car.

These six drivers may never have raced in Formula One, but they did get the chance to sample some of the greatest machines on earth.

Sébastien Loeb

Who? The nine-time WRC champion and motorsport legend
Where and when? Barcelona F1 winter test 2008

Sébastien Loeb has impressed in just about every race car he’s ever sat in, so it may come as no surprise that the Frenchman was pretty handy at the wheel of a Formula One car too.

The WRC champion first drove an F1 car in 2007 for Renault in a show car run at Paul Ricard, then just a year later Loeb took part in an official winter test at the Circuit de Catalunya.

He drove the Red Bull Racing RB4 in the session alongside full-time F1 drivers, finishing an impressive eighth-fastest of the 17 runners.

Valentino Rossi

Valentino Rossi testing for Ferrari at Mugello in 2008
Rossi also drove for Ferrari at Mugello in 2008 © Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images

Who? The six-time MotoGP champion they call ‘The Doctor.’
Where and when? Valencia F1 winter test 2006

Six-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi is a master on two wheels, but in 2006 he proved he could also impress on four, so much so even the great Michael Schumacher was full of praise for The Doctor.

Rossi tested for Ferrari at a 2006 pre-season test in Valencia and, by the third and final day, was a mere half a second off Schumacher’s best lap time.

The Italian’s performance launched plenty of rumours about a switch to F1, but sadly the dream Italian motorsport combo never materialised, as he stayed committed to a career in MotoGP. He did, however, test for Ferrari again at Mugello in 2008.

Colin McRae

© YouTube

Who? The late 1995 World Rally Champion and fan's favourite
Where and when? Silverstone 1996

Loeb isn’t the only rally champion to have got behind the wheel of an F1 car, as 1995 World Rally Champion Colin McRae enjoyed a run in Martin Brundle’s Jordan back in 1996 at Silverstone, as the two British drivers swapped cars for a sponsor’s publicity stunt.

McRae drove just a handful of laps in the Jordan 196, but he was impressively just a couple of seconds off Brundle’s pace.

Craig Lowndes

Craig Lowndes McLaren F1 Bathurst
Craig Lowndes at the wheel of the McLaren MP4-23 © Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Who? The V8 Supercars legend with over 100 race wins
Where and when? Bathurst 2011

Craig Lowndes is the most successful V8 Supercars driver of all-time and has won Australia’s most famous race, the Bathurst 1000, no fewer than six times. So who better to become one of the first drivers to take an F1 car around the famous Mount Panorama Circuit?

2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button and Lowndes drove a number of demo laps in the 2008 McLaren MP4-23, with both drivers smashing the previous circuit lap record set by Lowndes in his V8 Supercar.

Mick Doohan

© YouTube

Who? The motorbike star who won five consecutive 500cc World Championships
Where and when? Barcelona F1 test 1998

Motorbike legend Mick Doohan got a taste of Formula One when he drove the 1998 Williams at Circuit de Catalunya as part of a PR test for a sponsor. The Australian struggled to get to grips with the FW19, however, losing control and hitting the wall after just four turns.

Also taking part in the test that day for Williams was World Rally Champion Tommi Mäkinen, who also had a meeting with the barrier.

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise Red Bull Racing F1 car 2011
Tom Cruise felt the need for speed © Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool

Who? The Hollywood actor from Top Gun and Mission Impossible
Where and when? Willow Springs 2011

Yes, really. Tom Cruise! The Hollywood star is no stranger to high speed, doing his own car and motorcycle chases in his movies. The American actor got up some serious speed when he drove a Red Bull Racing F1 car around Willow Springs circuit in 2011.

Cruise managed a top speed of 181 mph (291kph) – just 4mph slower than instructor and 13-time grand prix-winner David Coulthard managed on the same day.

© Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool

Watch the video above to see the Hollywood star’s run in a Formula One car.

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