IN HIS WORDS: Franco's F1 weekend debut

Published on
11 Jul 2024
Est. reading time
5 Min

Franco Colapinto reveals the inside story about his first ever FP1 session

The 2024 British Grand Prix weekend will forever be one of the most special for Williams Racing Driver Academy's Franco Colapinto.
Our Argentinian ace made his Formula 1 weekend debut in FP1, deputising for Logan Sargeant and getting into the cockpit of the FW46 for the first time.
Franco previously had an F1 test day after the 2023 season concluded, driving the FW45 in the post-season Young Drivers' Test at Abu Dhabi.
Sharing the track with world champion drivers and household names he's looked up to for years is a wholly different experience, though.
Here's how Franco became Argentina's first F1 representative since 2001 in his own words.
Franco's smile in the garage before his FP1 said it all
Franco's smile in the garage before his FP1 said it all
"I was told about the FP1 session in Austria, and it was great news — something that made me really excited.
"Of course, it was a bit hard to fully focus on the F2 weekend in Austria, having the news in the back of my mind and doing some stuff with the Williams Racing team.
"But then I had to switch my focus back to the F2 weekend again."
Even with that sizeable F1 distraction, Franco still impressed in Spielberg and stormed to P2 in the F2 Feature Race for his best points haul of 2024.
Yet there was no rest after the podium celebrations for Franco, who said, "It was a long week!
"I went straight to England after Austria, and we arrived very late on Sunday night. The next morning, I was already at the sim in Grove doing some prep for FP1.
"Then, I flew to Amsterdam and did a full day of F2 sim work with MP Motorsport.
"On Tuesday evening, I flew back to the UK and was back at Williams in the sim all day on Wednesday.
"I went to Silverstone on Wednesday night, and Thursday was super busy with media, lots of meetings, and juggling F2 and F1 - it was an experience!
"There was a lot going on, which I think was good because it stopped me from overthinking about FP1. I just had to take it day by day, focusing on the challenges in front of me."
Relive the moments that led Franco to securing his first FP1
While Logan and Alex had their full focus on getting set for the Grand Prix and getting their FW46 as far up the field as possible, Franco had to juggle F1 and F2.
The performance difference between these cars is vast; "It was hard," admits Franco.
"I had only driven the car once before in Abu Dhabi, which was a Young Drivers' Test.
"FP1 was only one hour, and we had a lot we needed to fit into the run plan.
"I wanted to maximise the session as much as possible, and it ended up being shortened to 45 minutes because of the red flag, so we had even less time to work with.
"Everything was a rush. I did Free Practice in F2 and went straight over to the F1 paddock, had some meetings there, and did my final prep for the session.
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"Then it was time to get into the FW46. Honestly, the car felt very comfortable to drive; It gave me a lot of confidence almost right away.
"To do only four push laps on the Hards and then put on the Softs, I think that's quite difficult.
"But to be only four-tenths off Albon after only four laps? I was expecting a bigger gap!
"Luckily, I could adapt to the car and felt comfortable pretty quickly.
"I felt very welcomed and supported by the team, and it was nice to have that environment around me. They helped me get up to speed and briefed me in the sim as well, which was super helpful.
"There wasn't much time between being told in Austria and getting into the car in Silverstone, so it was difficult to prepare well.
"Luckily, I received a lot of help and support from the people in the team.
"Of course, I drove the FW45 last year, and to feel the differences from one to the other was really cool.”
After getting his first taste of the FW46, Franco rushed back to the F2 paddock just in time for Qualifying.
"After FP1, it was a big shock – when you jump in an F2 car again, it's like, "Wow!"
"When I got back into the F2 car for Qualifying, it was a big, big change in terms of speed, comfort, and the feeling with the car. It was all so different again."
Again, though, Franco excelled in F2, putting his car on the second row in qualifying, even with the additional session that day.
Perhaps those extra minutes in F1 machinery helped?
Franco has 24 more F1 laps under his belt, and can forever say he's shared the circuit against the greats.
How does he reflect on that milestone looking back on it a few days later?
"The weekend was amazing, just really cool.
"The first FP1 is always very, very special and important in every driver’s career I think.
"The opportunity that Williams Racing gave me is something I'm very grateful for.
"They put me in the car at their home race, a weekend that is very special for them, and they trusted me to drive at Silverstone...
"I think it's one of the hardest tracks in F1 and it's a track that you always enjoy driving, especially in an F1 car because you can extract all the potential and force of the car. I enjoyed that."
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