Niki Lauda samples modern F1 from the cockpit

Three-time World Champion Niki Lauda broke a 16-year absence from driving a modem Formula One car when he tested the Jaguar R2 in Spain last month. The Jaguar team boss drove a 10-lap stint at the Valencia circuit in order to better understand the experiences of current drivers Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa.

"My intention was to learn as much as possible about the electronic systems on the car, so I can relate directly to the drivers' experiences," said Lauda. "When I raced, it was left to the driver to fully control the car. Today, with paddle-shift gear levers, you can keep both hands on the wheel all the time. The clutch and gearbox combination is most impressive."

Despite spinning twice, Lauda was uncowed and did not hold back, matching the straight-line speed recorded by de la Rosa. His entry speed into two of the corners also matched that set by the Spanish racer. "I would much rather have spun than be accused by Eddie and Pedro of having tiptoed around the circuit," admitted Lauda.