Spectating at a motorsports event always leaves you wondering what it would be like to lap some of the world's greatest tracks at speed. Usually you'd have to invest in a racing license to find out.is making it a little easier to get that sensation, thanks to its new Hot Laps program that it will roll out at select Formula One grand prix events this year.
Basically, Hot Laps is 100 percent as-advertised. Fans with the coin to spare can pony up and get a ride around a racing circuit in a supercar (Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz and McLaren are all participating) with a highly skilled driver at the wheel. Occasionally, even current Formula One talent like Ricciardo, Hamilton or Alonso will do the driving, other times it's F1 legends like Martin Brundle (more on this later).
The experience is unique, in that it shows what a modern high-performance street tire is capable of on a race track, since all of the cars are rolling on Pirelli P-Zero tires, natch.
To see what the Hot Laps thing was all about, Pirelli was kind enough to fly Yours Truly to beautiful Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. As someone who'd never been to a race weekend before, the results were fairly staggering.
The Hot Laps tent is situated in the paddock, so every special lanyard known to man was required to even get in. Participants were also asked to sign a remarkably thorough waiver, should anything crashy happen, so I whipped out my pilfered hotel pen and made my mark. Once at the tent proper, I was greeted by Pirelli staff who got me situated with a helmet and yet another lanyard showing my car assignment.
Initially, I was excited at the prospect of experiencing Circuit Gilles Villeneuve from the passenger seat of a Mercedes-AMG GT R coupes on hand., but instead, I was placed in a brand-new with -- much to my delight -- Martin Brundle as my driver. Apart from the Vantage and the pair of McLarens, there was a new and a couple
Once given your helmet and car assignment, the process of getting on track is a whirlwind. Given the tight schedule for the track on a race weekend, each vehicle goes four laps (not including warm-up and cool-down laps), with each participant getting one lap of the circuit. I was the last rider for the Vantage, which means I got to enjoy seeing the other 15 people enjoy their experiences before I was whisked into the passenger seat of the car, belted in and on my way.
The lap experience itself was incredible. Not only is Brundle a helluva commentator, but it also turns out that he's a pretty hot shoe too. Since I was the last ride, the Aston was fully warmed up, and as such, Brundle was on maximum attack for the duration of our lap. At one point, we managed to pass the V12-powered Vanquish on the back straight, something I don't think the people running Hot Laps were thrilled about.
The Aston Martin Vantage may technically be the baby Aston, but its AMG-sourced 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is genuinely something special. We easily brushed 150 miles per hour on the straights, and the car felt remarkably stable in Brundle's capable hands, even when clipping the grass in places and running up onto the curbs. The car moved around a little under hard braking but mostly felt like it was just winding up to pounce on the next curve.
The lap was over well before I was ready for it to be, but that is the nature of things like this. We made our way back to the starting grid, I got out and could smell the hot rubber and warm brakes. It smelled… expensive, and I loved it. From there, we were herded back to the paddock, and the experience was over. Everyone who had participated was practically effervescent, speaking ebulliently about what their driver had done and how fast the car went.
Now here's where things start to get a little complicated. As you might imagine, Hot Laps is most definitely an added extra for your race weekend, and given the exclusivity of the program, it's an experience that doesn't go for couch change. Pirelli is offering the Hot Laps experience for around $15,000, depending on the track.
We'll pause while you quickly clean up the coffee you just spat onto your screen.
While one and a half stacks isn't chump change, the Hot Laps package does come with a few other perks, namely a three-day Paddock Club Legends pass and all of the lobster, champagne and other finery that comes with it. Considering the Paddock Club Legends pass is around $7,000 by itself, it's not totally egregious if you're already in the rich-as-Croesus crowd.
The Pirelli Hot Laps experience is available at six of the remaining races in the Formula One season, including the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, the US Grand Prix at COTA, the Mexican Grand Prix at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina.