Watching Lewis Hamilton’s maiden NASCAR run

F1 video

Posted on

| Written by

Gerard Hetman was at Watkins Glen on Tuesday to watch Lewis Hamilton and Tony Stewart try each others’ cars.

Here are his thoughts from the day plus onboard footage of both drivers’ laps.

From the outside the Watkins Glen media centre looks like an ordinary residential house. But on the inside it’s a properly-equipped facility with every modern amenity you could wish for.

After checking in I notice the massive attention Mobil 1’s F1 and NASCAR driver-swap project has attracted: there are media from national and international outlets, plus others from the local press.

Right from the start of the day, we had nearly-unlimited access to the tents that were acting as garage areas for McLaren and Stewart-Haas. All press and VIPs were free to walk in and look at pretty much whatever they wanted to, which led to some great photo-ops.

David Coulthard was out running laps of the track in a Corvette street car with BBC’s Lee McKenzie. Then, to my surprise, as I was looking at the Chevrolet Impala NASCAR, I heard some commotion outside the tent. I looked up and Lewis Hamilton was walking towards me!

After Hamilton had an up-close look at the Sprint Cup car – including a climb inside the cockpit – it was off for the drivers to meet up in the media building, before they made a reconnaissance run of the track together in a black Chevy Suburban. After the run, Stewart and Hamilton gave each other a tour of their respective garages and cars.

It was then off to the writing room at the media centre, where Coulthard introduced the drivers to the media. The fans outside were wired in via the circuit’s public address system, which helped make up for the decision to move the conference inside due to the rainy weather.

Off to the races

Lewis Hamilton, NASCAR, Watkins Glen, 2011

After each driver gave a brief description of what he expected from the cars- including how they would handle under wet conditions – both headed out to their waiting cars at the start/finish line.

With Coulthard driving the pace car, both Hamilton and Stewart drove a lap together in their own cars for the photographers. Stewart then pulled into pit lane as Hamilton gave the crowds a first-hand look at the power of an F1 car.

When Hamilton pulled back into his tent after finishing a few laps, it was Stewart’s turn to show what he could do, as he turned some laps in a car that will look familiar to fans at Watkins Glen come August.

Hamilton was up first in the NASCAR machine, and while many expected him to slide all over the course, he never had an off moment. Saving the best for last, Hamilton demonstrated his new-found mastery of NASCAR equipment by thrilling the crowd with several doughnuts in front of the main grandstand.

Stewart then calmly walked to the waiting MP4-23. With Hamilton at his side, he climbed into the cockpit without a problem. The anti-stall kicked in once, but after that he was fired up and gone.

It seemed as though he ran a few more laps than Hamilton did in the NASCAR, but the crowd was every bit as happy.

After the main event

Tony Stewart, McLaren, Watkins Glen, 2011

After Stewart parked the McLaren, the day rounded off with a press conference. Naturally, Stewart and Hamilton both offered praise for each other’s job, and talked about how neat it would be to run an actual race in each others’ series.

Lots of questions came from the floor, including one about Hamilton’s reported conversations with Red Bull team bosses in Canada, which he have a guarded response to. A final photo opportunity concluded the day.

The staff at Watkins Glen put on a first-class reception for all visiting media and every single fan in the stands.

Not everyone wants to come out on a Tuesday in bad weather, but judging from the number of people at the track as spectators, I think there is a healthy body of support for Formula 1 in America.

That has to bode well for next year’s United States Grand Prix at Austin.

See pictures from the event here: Lewis Hamilton drives NASCAR at Watkins Glen

Video courtesy of McLaren with thanks to Dan Selby.

Images ©

71 comments on “Watching Lewis Hamilton’s maiden NASCAR run”

  1. Tony Stewart certainly got the better deal there.

    1. Stewart looked very tidy in the Mclaren, it has to be said. I think the look of longing on his face when he got out of the thing was great. What’s annoying about the day was that both drivers I think would have loved to stay out all day flashing around.

      1. On the SPEED show Hamilton said something to the effect of, we’re going to put on some fresh tires and go back out. I think they both wanted to keep driving each others’ rigs.

      2. he looked to be driving about as fast as f1 drivers do behind the safety car, he would have neeeded many more laps to realise how much more speed you can use in the f1 car.

  2. Jealous. These guys are paid millions to pursue their hobbies…:)

  3. Hamilton says at the end- ‘it’s gonna take a few days to come down from the anti-climax of this’ loooooooooooool

    1. Hahaha – good spot – He don’t think he ment to say it…but probably ment it.

    2. Probably some kind of double negative.

    3. Probably meant the anti-climax of it being over, but I think we all got the idea…

    4. Spinmastermic
      16th June 2011, 20:18

      He said,”……come down, the anti-climax of this”. He didnt say “from”.

    5. Educationalist
      17th June 2011, 2:31

      If you take a break from your self-satisfaction you will find that he used the word appropriately. “To come down, the anti-climax,” in other words, the opposite of the building excitement and expectation he experienced prior to and at the time of the driving.

  4. F1Fanatic TV. sky channel…. ;)

  5. Oh no…doughnuts! Never liked them. Great video. The MP4-23 has some crazy bodywork.

    1. 2007-2008 The Gundam-era cars, as I like to call them.

      I’d love to have one of those NASCAR beasts converted into a road car, funny because it’s supposed to be the other way round seeing as it’s ‘stock car racing’

      1. Lol, I love Gundam, must be why the MP4-23 is my favorite F1 car ever.

  6. Man that McLaren is ugly

    1. LOL, just what I wanted to say about the “impala”-like NASCAR!

      That MP4-23 is a sculpture tributing to crazy downforce! But I am glad the teams are now forced to cut down on crazy appendages.

      1. I found those cars were amazing with every little piece having a function. Now days the cars hardly change in looks over the course of the season as all the changes are hidden inside or under the car.

        1. Yeah I agree, I loved the old cars, the F2008 was one of the most beautiful creations I’ve ever seen, certainly right at the top of the modern era cars. An as a McLaren fan, praising Ferrari’s doesn’t come every day.

  7. The coverage made by Speed Channel was absolutely awesome. I was commenting about Lewis appeal in US market at James Allen´s blog, highlighting how ironic is to see:

    “…Lewis been criticizing by his life style and drives and perceive that HE is the right man to lead the new F1 assaut at North America.

    The man is the right marketing tool to revamp F1 there: He likes to say what he thinks, has charisma, a pop singer girlfriend, a spectacular driving style and… is BLACK…”

    James choose to moderate the word black, maybe he misunderstood my comment because been black is really a good appeal in the US sports market.

    Anyway, I love the way another commenter, Joe, accessed the matter:

    Hey Becken your right Lewis is the man for the US!

    Lewis is an F1 marketing machine and we all forget that F1 would be quite dull without Lewis not only for his on track style but his off track value.

    Ultimately, Lewis is the only BRAND in F1 in terms of drivers – he has universal appeal and you can’t say that for Vettel or Alonso.

    If we are serious about growing F1 globally we need to embrace Lewis not give him a hard time. Yeah he pushes the limits on the track and thats what we want even though we whinge when it goes wrong. H has the glamour lifestyle and famous friends and thats what we need we shoudl eb happy Rihanna is at an F1 race rather than bagging Lewis out for his mates.
    Mind you I am a tradionalist and would prefer Lewis act more like he did in the early days as he came across as a wonderfully well mannered boy.

    But when your talking about the US market we need personalities like Lewis who can grow the sport and capture the heart of the many.

    1. I must admit, a part of me would like to see Hamilton do IndyCar – but that could only happen if something went very wrong for him in F1. Perhaps an Indy 500 one day ;)

      1. I would love to see Dario and TK taking him to the cleaners

      2. SennaNmbr1 (@)
        16th June 2011, 21:34

        Like what’s happening now? Seems to be alienating himself from the whole paddock.

    2. James choose to moderate the word black

      Eh? Another blatant mugging of valid public discourse at the hands of political correctness.

      I agree with you Becken, not to mention that Hamilton is also named after one of the most famous American athletes of all time – Carl Lewis – who is also black.

    3. I think that Joe’s statement regarding Lewis Hamilton as the only driver brand in F1 is wrong.
      Is Schumacher not a brand? Anyone who has won a championship is a brand… Button, Vettel, Alonso.

      And I don’t think Hamilton really has universal appeal either :)

      1. I’ve come to the conclusion that Hamilton has more appeal outside of Europe.

        1. At least McLaren don’t use Pedro de la Rosa for events like this one.

          I think Red Bull is making a mistake by not using Vettel in any of their Showcar events.

      2. And I don’t think Hamilton really has universal appeal either

        Just watch the new Pixar movie to see that he really is the driver with more appeal outside Europe.

        Fernando and other F1 drivers will be on the screen too, but only to spanish audience. Only Lewis will be in the global release of the movie.

        By the way, here in Brazil Lewis is the foreign driver with the hugest fanbase.

        1. Schumacher was in the first Cars movie.

          1. No way! How could i have missed that

          2. Schumacher was in the first Cars movie.

            Yep, I know that. Cars 1 was released in 2006, when Michael was the most famous F1 driver and well known globally.

            So, to be part of Cars was a must, mainly because John Lasseter is huge Ferrari fan and Michael was the great Ferrari ambassador.

            Can we assume that Lewis, even without the powerful Ferrari brand backing him, have replaced Michael as the most famous F1 driver?

      3. Dear i have being to the states, south africa,and i’m currently in malaysia. And i must say schumacher and hamilton are very popular, because everyone i have being everyone knows about them, even none formula one followers.Ealier this year i attended the malaysian grand prix and i met few ladies in sepang circut who went there just to watch Hamilton’s race, they said tehey find him attractive and even my lady friends only watch f1 because of Hamilton. Schumacher is popular because of his achievements, Hamilton is popular because of a lot of things other than winning a championship, so belief me he is a marketing tool just like schumacher. And dating nicole, makes him even more popular. People outside europe worship celebrities, and hamilton is classified one because of his popularity and because of his “cool” friends.. in conclusion he has the universal appeal dear and i’m afraid his the only one in f1 who has it. I highly rate vettel and alonso because of their skill, but in terms of universal appeal, popularity and “coolness” they are know were close to hamilton…

      4. Hamilton is well followed in the states actually, not least because of dating Nicole. I see him racing over there towards the end of his career, think Beckham and the career path he took, it’s something like that Lewis wants to follow.

        1. i know his followed because of his skills, but his also followed because of his off track life. My reply was to imply the guy has the universal appeal and can help to promote f1 in areas where a lot of people don’t really follow f1 because his known everywhere unlike most drivers.. for example i bet rihanna and that ice- t guy or whatever his name is only knew Hamilton out of all the drivers in f1 paddock..

      5. Is Schumacher not a brand? Anyone who has won a championship is a brand… Button, Vettel, Alonso.

        Schumacher was a brand but those days are behind him and being a world champion doesn’t make you a brand. Simply being good isn’t good enough, becoming a brand requires as much work anyway from the track as it does on it, but the better you are the easy it is.

        Beckham is the best example. Never the best footballer in the world yet there has never been a footballer with more marketing power.

        Alonso, Button and Vettel are racing drivers where as Hamilton is a bona fide celebrity. He’s no longer famous for driver cars, he’s famous because he is Lewis Hamilton.

    4. James Allen also moderated a comment I made about Lewis getting racist abuse in Monza and Barcelona (from fans’ comments I saw who had attended both races and were appalled at the name calling, racist abuse and booing), and he deleted all references to racism. I was saying in my post that it is a disgrace and why is nothing done about it. I will no longer look at James Allen’s site because he appears to have a problem with regards to race, seeing as he also deleted the word “black”.

      1. I think it’s far more likely that JA is being very careful what kind of comments are allowed, on the basis that if nothing borderline goes up, it doesn’t have to be taken down.

        I understand your frustration, but after the media furore over the Ali G joke, he’s probably right.

      2. That is a rediculous accusation to make against James.

        The comments on race are moderated to avoid opening up a can of worms.

        Previously such comments were not so strictly moderated on the site and almost without exception the contributors ended up getting into heated debates that quickly devolved into unfounded accusations quite like the one you have made against James.

        The users who are incapable of restraining themselves from making emotionally fueled outbursts are to blame in this respect, not the site owner or moderators.

        1. To me that just idiotic. So what if they get in a big crazy debate? Let them.Isn’t that what the internet is for? Why can’t we have a conversation with someone in the same way we would have it by speaking face to face?

          All this overly moderated sites and forums are an insult to the freedom of speech. Nothing should ever be moderated except filthy words swearing against others.
          The problem is that all sites and blogs now our days are using political correctness sissy tactics. Hypocritical disgusting staff if you ask me.

        2. unfounded accusations

          There is nothing unfounded in objecting to having been censored. If you submit ‘x’ and ‘y’ is published your claim is based on fact.

          Further more, sanitising a valid, well considered or factual comment in such a way is likely going to open a bigger ‘can of worms’ than leaving that comment intact or – where warranted – removing it entirely.

    5. UKfanatic (@)
      17th June 2011, 0:00

      sure, I would add that he was very polite and not a bit sincere about driving the nascar, you know what I mean it is surely great fun but not as impressive as an f1 drive he did a perfect sponsor job

  8. Love how Lewis got it flat out in a minute. It’s impressive how this guys can jump in a TOTALLY different car and drive so fast…

    they should be obligated to do a couple of races outside F1 during the season.

    1. tell that to the insurance companies that refuse to ensure stuff like that .. *cough* kubica *cough*

      1. just to make it clear: i’d love to see f1 drivers in other racing series like in the old days .. i just don’t think it’ll happen

        1. I’d like to see that too. And judging by Lewis’s comments reported somewhere on this site earlier this week, he’d like to have a go in a different car once in a while too.

          As an explanation for why they don’t, there seems to be a general consensus that “times have changed”, but other than the fuller F1 calendar, I can’t think of a particularly good reason that F1 stars shouldn’t have outings in other cars now and again. I wonder, for instance, why Rosberg only drove a few passengers around at at DTM event a few weeks ago. Is it too much trouble for Mercedes to field an additional car?

  9. box this lap
    16th June 2011, 14:42

    Watching this makes me a proud F1 fan again.

    Lewis looks skinny compared to Tony Stewart. Are F1 drivers skinny? or are NASCAR drivers fat?

    1. Lewis Hamilton’s pretty small overall, and I think Stewart is of bigger build anyhow.

    2. It is pretty weird to see such a huge racing driver. Especially since Stewart was apparently even bigger until recently he lost a lot of weight so he could actually fit in the McLaren!

    3. F1 drivers are, on an average, shorter than other athletes. I remember how it was a big deal when Justin Wilson (who’s about 6 feet tall) joined Jaguar and commentators were talking about how they’d have to change the position of the airbox to accommodate his helmet!

      1. I’m not counting jockeys here. Although it is interesting that to go faster without using your own arms and legs, you need to get smaller.

  10. 65 kilos is about the optimum for F1 drivers. Anything over and you’re compromising the amount of ballast you can play with in set up.

  11. I’m torn on these kinds of “driver swap” sponsor events. On the one hand, it’s nice to see guys like Tony Stewart in an F1 car (and he was quite a handy single-seater driver back in the day, of course…) and Lewis in a stock car.

    But on the other, it’s all a bit fake isn’t it? I’m sure that driving around Watkins Glen in a solitary stock car is a very different experience to riding bumper-to-bumper with 42 other cars at Daytona or Talladega. Ditto with doing demo runs in an F1 car.

    I suppose the ideal would be to have F1 drivers still trying different disciplines in the off-season … but most of them aren’t allowed to do so these days, and even for those that do, there are risks involved (see Kubica).

    1. I’d far rather see them actually racing.

      I had a press release from Mercedes a while ago saying Nico Rosberg was going to be driving a DTM car at the Hockenheim round. I was getting all excited and was already mentally composing the article when, halfway through reading the release, I realised he was just doing taxi laps. Ho-hum.

      Although I wouldn’t for one second wish to belittle the graveness of Kubica’s injuries, an unfortunate side-effect of his accident will surely be teams becoming even more reluctant to let their drivers race anything other than F1 cars.

      And that’s a real pity, because the F1 and other series could benefit equally from the big-name drivers making some guest appearances.

      I wrote as much back before Kubica’s crash: If Hamilton and Kubica want to race elsewhere they should be allowed to

      1. I agree. It’s a shame the Indy 500 is on the same day as the Monaco GP. I know Bernie probably hates IndyCar, but wouldn’t it be awesome if we could have the best in F1 go up against the best in IndyCar?
        It would be nice to have a one-off Indy vs F1 race (but in a single make of cars). Jenson competed against Dan Wheldon in his karting days. Can they still compete against each other? Plus I (as a girl myself) would like to see how the Indy girls compare. Danica Patrick is pretty handy behind a wheel.

      2. Sure, I take your point about these promo events, guest appearances, whatever you want to call them being like ‘taxi laps’ and therefore being a disappointment but surely you aren’t suggesting LH could just jump into a Nascar car and go racing, or Tony Stewart should just do the same in an F1 car. Just trying to wrap my head around the logistics of F1 drivers racing other cars, or visa versa. Other than when it is during the off-season is suppose, ala rallying.

  12. MVEilenstein
    16th June 2011, 18:41

    I was pleased to see how smooth nad progressively quicker Stewart was as the dry line began to form. Another five laps and they both could have gone flat out on slicks. Hamilton did quite well, if a bit slow under braking. His car control was impressive, though.

  13. Is that one of the IndyCar type rotating cameras on the top of the McLaren there? It’d be nice to see them in F1 properly.

    Yes, it a pointless spot from myself but im curious non the less!

    1. Ugh, no thanks. I hate those things!

  14. soundscape (@)
    17th June 2011, 3:30

    And that makes four front page stories about Lewis Hamilton at once. Urgh.

    1. It’ll be five later today. He’s in the news a lot at the moment.

  15. William Wilgus
    17th June 2011, 4:32

    What has this got to do with F1 racing?

    1. F1 driver, F1 team, former F1 track…

    2. What is this got to do with F1??


      I take it you’re just irrate because its another story which involves the hugely popular Lewis Hamilton again?

      -Could it be that you are one who doesnt like Lewis causing the headlines, but when it comes to him being abused and recieving horrible comments – do you condemn them as strongly?

      This event has everything to do with F1 – With the Austin GP due for next season – its a no-brainer that there will be marketing and publicity/promotions for it in order to attract a big following there. Its no different to all the other promotional events put on by other teams in non-F1 hosting countries. It was said that Lewis was chosen because he has a big appeal in the states.

  16. Hamilton is huge… he could be so much bigger if he became more of a bad guy. Asked for more money and show how he could drive circles around the so called top drivers.

    All this controversy around him, makes me wonder if any of the critics ever watch f1 live..The guy has more car control and speed than anyone on the grid what is so hard to figure out?

    1. Car control? Did YOU see the last two F1 races?

  17. nathancabopino
    17th June 2011, 12:57

    If anyone wants to see more video from the event you can go here:

    There are 7 videos in total.

    Keith, apologies if you didn’t want that link shown, I’m not sure on the link sharing protocol lol :D


    1. nathancabopino
      17th June 2011, 13:41

      Make that 8 videos, sorry! *gets calculator out* lol :)

      1. nathancabopino
        17th June 2011, 13:51

        Ok that is really embarrassing, I counted one twice! :$ *slunks into a corner to be quiet for a while*

  18. Russell Gould
    17th June 2011, 15:48

    Being a U.S. F1 fan, I find the comments about Lewis’s popularity here amusing. Schumi’s still the King ‘o F1 here. Maybe 10% of our citizens could identify Lewis in array of photos of the current driver lineup.


    People here don’t know jack about F1 for the most part. The sustained popular view is still one of Schumi + Ferrari. I look forward to seeing how having a local event starting in 2012 will change that.

    I lived in Texas for ten years. Bernie needs to visit there this time of year. The pampered folk in the Paddock Club will melt in Austin in the summer. However with the current June schedule, teams will continue with cost cutting by reusing their Malaysian bodywork, I guess. ;-)

  19. Please bring F1 back to the Glen…

Comments are closed.