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Fast Cars and Fearless Drivers: A Design Intern Visits F1 Test Days at Jerez

Peppermint provides internship placements to marketing and design students from all over Europe and beyond. One of our current interns, Peter Noble from London, is studying a BSc in Product Design at Bournemouth University, and he hopes to specialise in automobile design after graduation. So, when he received a Christmas gift of a pass to the F1 pre-season testing at Jerez, he didn’t have far to drive from the Peppermint office to study the cutting edge F1 designs and hang out with the likes of Lewis Hamilton. We asked him to share his experience – and some of his photos – with our readers.

Fast Cars and Fearless Drivers: A Design Intern Visits F1 Test Days at Jerez

Life in southern Spain is quiet and simple. The immense heat is often too stifling to do anything except find refuge in the shade. But, for a couple of days in the winter a few hundred million pounds worth of trucks containing F1 cars and machinery dramatically changes the scenery around Jerez in southern Spain.

Nestled in the Andalucian countryside, the city of Jerez De La Frontera is famous for its sherry bodegas, and since the 1980s, its racetrack. One of the closest finishes in a F1 race happened here in the late 80s; that was between Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna. It’s a superb track that looks as if it has been sunk into the terrain: the rocks and earth sideline it the whole way around to create the most spectacular amphitheatre effect as the cars zoom around the circuit.

When the big boys and the razzmatazz of Formula 1 rolls into town, it’s certainly a big occasion. What looks like a hugely desolate land is suddenly transformed into a Mecca for petrol heads and F1 fans. The sport may have lost the glamour and sexiness of the past, but its focus now is on engineering brilliance. It certainly hasn’t lost its appeal to the fans, who travel in their thousands just to see a day of pre season tests.

Sadly, it seems that when it comes to race days, Jerez has had its finest hour. It hasn’t hosted a race for nearly 20 years and that statistic does not look like changing soon. The location is quite inaccessible, with no train stations nearby and an airport that only has a couple of flights a week. However for testing, Jerez is the best possible place. All the drivers love the layout of the fast paced track and the conditions are warm, so it gives feedback and data that the teams need for the upcoming start to the season in Melbourne. Also, Jerez, being in southern Europe, is much easier and cheaper for the teams to reach than the Middle East, which is another potential testing location.


There is nothing that compares to the sound created by the engine in a F1 car. Nothing comes close; not even a Ferrari howling, a Lamborghini screaming or a Aston Martin groaning. If the noise they produce doesn’t move you, or make you excited, then that is your problem, not the cars. The new V6 turbo doesn’t compare to a V8, it never would, but it gives a pretty impressive performance.

Getting close to the track is the main thing I would recommend to everyone because you get a sense of speed that is like no other. You start to realise how the fine-tuning and engineering all come together. When you see the cars going flat out at ridiculous high speeds towards corners, you also see just how quickly they are able to stop, due to the powerful brakes.

The drivers have no fear whatsoever compared to the average human being, and I mean nothing. They accelerate up to a corner, and then at what looks like 30 or so metres beforehand, the brakes come on. It truly is staggering at how brave they are. Most drivers of normal cars get a bit flustered at going round a bend at 45mph on a country lane: try 145mph+ in a car with no ABS, traction control or other safety aids, and your head truly starts to boggle at the balls these guys have.

I was lucky enough to have a two-day hospitality pass which allowed me everywhere on the track, as well as in the paddock. The only areas I wasn’t allowed were the pit lane and press room. Although, I did catch a glimpse of some Ferrari CAD design whilst walking through. I think that is what you might call ‘industrial espionage’!

I love my cars: I adore them; they are my hobby and my passion. I don’t understand people who view the car as a tool. It is something to be proud of and to cherish. For me, driving is a privilege and not a right. Being in the right car on the right road is one of life’s greatest moments. So many times for me, the actual journey to a place is more fun than actually arriving at the destination!

Let’s be honest, there is nothing glamorous about train or plane travel anymore. It is all driven by mass hysteria about cheap fares, and cramming as many people in as possible. But with car travel, it allows you to have some of the best holidays of your life. Ever since I was a young boy, from about the age of two, I would play with toy cars. My father is a petrol head and my mother loves her cars as well. Growing up in this environment was the best thing possible for me. It is what has eventually inspired me to becoming a designer, and hopefully one day I’ll work in the automobile industry.

That is why the F1 testing was my Christmas present. I wanted to be in this environment and experience at first hand what it is all about. There is only so much you can see on the television. I am by no means an anorak but just love this sport. Its’ just a huge playground that I can have a load of fun in. In Spanish I’d say it’s “¡fantastico!”.

As part of the hospitality I was granted a pass for the paddock, which is behind the pit lane that all the teams have access to. I was so blessed that I met many famous figureheads of the sport and talked to many others as well. On the first day I was lucky enough to have met Niki Lauda, Lewis Hamilton, Christian Horner and Ted Kravitz. I was humbled and amazed to have met my sporting heroes. To have even had the opportunity to do this was incredible as well.

On the second day I met Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and a few guys from Lotus F1. It was a very special environment to be in and something that I will always treasure. I had the biggest beaming smile for the whole time I was there. I could tell that everybody knew each other in the paddock and although they are all competing against each other, there is a respectful and friendly atmosphere.

In a way, it felt like home to me. I felt utterly at peace surrounded by all the teams, engineers, designers and machinery. I loved all the sights and the smells of rubber, petrol and exhaust fumes. Of all the sports, F1 makes me feel so alive; there is something about it that is filled with vitality. It is human beings doing what humans do best: pushing the boundaries, going into the unknown, taking risks and not being afraid to fail. At any given moment a wheel could have fallen off, or the brakes failed. Or a design could have been totally flawed in real life; even a beautifully handmade component could have failed. Any of these factors could have led to a serious crash, but the drivers and the teams do not hold back. They go for whatever is possible, and go all out to win. That is what I love about motorsport. It is totally and completely enthralling.

Jerez was the best couple of days, and certainly a lot better than I expected. It felt like a proper sporting event, even if it was just a test. I would recommend it to anyone, because it’s truly a place to enjoy motorsport at its very pinnacle. I also learnt a lot about design… it wasn’t just about entertainment after all.