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Friday favourite: When a GP2 race winner “ate steering wheel” in Alpine's F1 winner

Former IndyCar racer Jordan King made his debut in Formula E last weekend, his latest experience on a busy CV that also includes sampling a Formula 1 race-winner last year. He recalls the unforgettable experience of driving his favourite car to date

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A521

With experience of driving Formula 1, Formula E, IndyCar and World Endurance Championship machinery, there are not many drivers that can match Jordan King’s level of experience across a plethora of different motorsport disciplines.

Although the 30-year-old Briton may not have raced much in recent years, his knowledge has meant he’s a man in demand as he dovetails reserve driver duties for Mahindra in Formula E and as Alpine’s simulator and development driver in F1.

A promising young career had yielded the 2013 British F3 Championship – against the likes of future F1 drivers Antonio Giovinazzi and Nicholas Latifi – which was followed by two wins in GP2 with Racing Engineering in 2016, before King embarked on two more years in the F1 feeder series under its new moniker, F2.

Alongside MP Motorsport for the 2017 and 2019 F2 campaigns, with the latter providing a brace of podiums, King also raced part-time in IndyCar for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2018 before making his sole Indianapolis 500 outing with Rahal Letterman Racing the following season as he finished 24th.

Prior to that King did reach the pinnacle of motorsport, becoming Manor’s test driver in 2016 where he was given the chance to sample the team’s MRT05 in official outings at the Circuit of the Americas and Yas Marina circuits.

But it’s another F1 machine that "was a different formula" and that King was able to drive only last year that he picks out as his favourite car; the Alpine A521. Having performed simulator and development duties for the British-based F1 team over the last four years, King was given the chance to get behind the wheel for real at the challenging and technical Hungaroring.

King made his Formula E debut for Mahindra earlier this month, but it's his most recent F1 outing that stands out most

King made his Formula E debut for Mahindra earlier this month, but it's his most recent F1 outing that stands out most

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Not only was he given the chance to test arguably the fastest generation of grand prix car ever produced – 2022 being the first year of the ground-effect machines – but it also happened to be the same combination with which the team last celebrated a win in F1. Esteban Ocon’s maiden, and so far only, grand prix victory came in unlikely fashion at the wheel of the A521 at the Hungaroring in 2021.

PLUS: How a carryover Alpine blighted by politics gave Ocon an improbable F1 win

King embarked on a full day of testing in Hungary, which included completing more than 400km of running and meant his neck “just about survived” as he was subjected to a new level of g-force he’d previously not experienced in his career.

“The sim model we’ve got is extremely good, so driving out of the pits straight away the immersive experience that I’ve taken from the sim, it was like a duck to water,” says King. “I didn’t even think about taking the pitlane speed limiter off because I’d done it so many times in the sim, the cockpits the same, the chassis is the same; everything just feels normal other than you don’t get the g-force.

"You hit the brakes and I genuinely ate steering wheel; I just wasn’t ready for it"
Jordan King

“Obviously, I know what it’s capable of in the sim, it’s just getting the confidence to get there so it took a couple of laps but the thing that it just doesn’t prepare you for is first lap into Turn 1.

“I knew where I could brake and I knew how hard I had to brake so I thought, trust the sim but give myself a five-metre margin and the thing just stops. You hit the brakes and I genuinely ate steering wheel; I just wasn’t ready for it. You pick your head back up, [and there are] teeth marks in the dashboard type thing.”

King, who made his Formula E debut with Mahindra in Berlin last weekend, believes the run was an invaluable experience. Not only to better correlate with his experience and feedback on Alpine’s simulator, but also on a personal level as he hopes to get the chance to do further outings in the future.

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“I got a lot from it but, more importantly, the team got everything they wanted from it as well,” he reflects. “I think there will be more but it’s one of those things, it has to fit. There’s no point doing it for the sake of doing it because it’s time-consuming, it’s expensive and you’ve got to fit it in at the right time of the programme.

“It was like a proper homecoming, I’ve worked hard to get myself in opportunities and positions and then to be trusted to be given the chance. Who doesn’t like driving an F1 car? It’s just cool.”

King says he'll never forget his run in the 2021 Hungarian GP winner at the same venue - pictured is Fernando Alonso in practice that year

King says he'll never forget his run in the 2021 Hungarian GP winner at the same venue - pictured is Fernando Alonso in practice that year

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

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