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Q & A with JR Hildebrand

Conducted and provided by Force India's press office.

Formula 1's young driver test at Jerez in Spain this week has provided a great opportunity for teams to try out new talent that has not been near grand prix machinery before.

Yet while some teams have gone for established European talent, Force India took the bold decision to hand 21-year-old American JR Hildebrand his first chance to drive an F1 car - and the former A1 Grand Prix and Indy Lights driver loved every second.

Q. JR, today was your first taste of a Formula 1 car. What were your first impressions the VJM02?

JR Hildebrand: I was really impressed with the ability of the car. It is different in every way to what I'm used to, both in terms of the outright speed, but also in terms of the characteristics of the car and how it behaves, brakes and drives through corners. Having raced on ovals I'm used to a high top speed, so that wasn't too much of a shock, but the amount of load it runs and how much speed you can carry through the corner took some getting used to. I felt I was getting there and was starting to get the most out of the car, particularly towards the end of the morning.

Q. Did the work you have done in the simulator help you?

JH: I've been in the sim two times and it definitely helped to understand the basics of what to expect and at least know the track layout. Having never driven the circuit before and also having no prior experience of a car like this, it still took a couple of runs to get used to everything, but as the track improved over the morning we were right there, so I felt as prepared as I could have been. We'll look at the data now and see what I can do to get better.

Q. What did your programme involve today?

JH: It was a little bit tough initially. The track was clearly improving throughout the morning, so based on the program we were running, in terms of relative pace we were doing pretty well. I think we still had some free time in the car. We ran through the different tyre compounds and I felt I could still get quite a bit of time from the car. I lost my best lap by using a bit too much of the road and on my last run I just flat spotted the tyres straight out of the pits, which made a drastic difference in how good the car was and I really couldn't get the ultimate laptime from it.

Q. Were you pleased with how it went though?

JH: It was a little bit frustrating from the standpoint of losing the last two runs, but we were fifth quickest when my day was effectively done so I was pretty happy with my first outing. I was able to improve throughout the morning and up at the top of the charts at points so it gives me a lot to work to be getting on with in the next couple of days.

Q. And physically how was it? A lot of new drivers often take some time to get up to full fitness, particularly in the neck.

JH: Driving definitely gives a bit of pain in the neck, but I didn't have any major issues. My neck was a little bit sore but I'm not sure that anyone else here is going to be able to say much different! It's just something that I will look to work on in the future but I am not sure I could have done anything else to help with the fitness. I felt quite prepared.

Q. And what's the goal for tomorrow and the rest of the test?

JH: We have a pretty structured test programme. Everyone is on different run programmes throughout the week, with different tyres and weights and also some 2010 preparation so it is hard to tell where we are relative to other teams. I will just try to focus on what we are doing and not worry too much about anyone else. I'll also try to give the engineers as much feedback as I can as this is what they are looking for in the long term, while trying to wrap my head around what I need to do to get the most out of the car.

Q. Have you approached the test any differently to an IndyCar or Indy Lights test?

JH: It is roughly the same process but, just because of the nature of the car, we are talking about different things and about making different changes. I've had to learn what's more critical to report back and what the team needs to know from me. I've found that transition to be fairly seamless.

Q. What's been the most challenging aspect of today?

JH: The high speed cornering of the car is just phenomenal so getting used to the speed and how much I can carry into the corner, specifically into the high speed corners, is probably where I can improve the most. I looked at the data throughout the day and I've picked up some time so far and have just started to be in a pretty good range. I feel in terms of braking and low speed, technical parts of the circuit, I will also find some speed now, especially with the track improving. I'm looking forward to getting back into the car.

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