I was about to go on the most reckless drive of my life — cutting lanes, driving on the wrong side of the road, flying past pedestrians at over 100 miles an hour. There would be police cheering me on. Something is happening in New Jersey.
Technically, those police would not be cheering me on, but rather my driver. That's understandable, because while I'm a talentless hack, my wheelman would be German Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel.
My greatest feat of driving was sliding my parents' Volvo station wagon in a field. Sebastian Vettel's greatest feat of driving was winning two back-to-back world championships by the time he was 24.
I was one of a couple dozen press people waiting at the Weehawken ferry terminal parking lot for a chance to get a ride with either the aforementioned Herr Vettel or ex-F1 pilot and genuinely awesome dude David Coulthard. They were picking up journalists and driving the street course for next year's New Jersey Grand Prix.
It was going to be a nice PR gig for Infiniti, because they got to show off their new Audi S5 competitor, the G37 IPL. Red Bull Racing was happy because they got to increase their brand as the New York area steps closer to having a home grand prix. That and they'd booked Vettel on Letterman that night and they needed to keep him busy.
One journalist asked if the streets would be closed for the drive. Not exactly.
Instead of road blocks, we got the world's most reckless police escort. A pair of police cars would lead Vettel and Coulthard in Infinitis up through the course with their lights flashing. This was not a perfect solution, as this brief vignette will explain:
I've been in the car for a few minutes and
Vettel has already blasted up to the top of the massive cliff that defines the circuit. We're supposed to turn right at the intersection. There's a delivery truck waiting at the red light in the middle lane. The two cop cars ahead of us dive behind the truck, blasting through the right hand turn lane. We thread the needle at a speed I do not wish to know
and we pick up speed down the weaving, fast stretch of road. We are driving in the direction of oncoming traffic. There's a store at the intersection up ahead and people are out, cheering us along. Vettel kicks out the rear and we are sideways going down the hill.
The car is into the triple digits as we get to what will be the course's hairpin. There is a sewage treatment plant just over to our left — no, to our right — did I mention we were drifting? I see Coulthard's car behind us through the smoke.
First of all, let me say that if I am ever blasting down the wrong side of the street at highway speeds, or sliding through public roads trafficked by New Jersey drivers, I would want Sebastian Vettel behind the wheel. The guy was unbelievable. Unflappable, really. Nothing caught him off guard, nothing was ever abrupt, and there was never a moment when you thought the car was out of control. We're blitzing past a stone wall to our right and he looks back in the rear view mirror. "So, where are you all from?"
What did he think about the course? Well, he said "You've got to have big balls" about eight times in the press conference and he said that he'll be breaching 200 at the fastest part of the track. What did he think about the car? "It's always nice to have a car with enough power to spin the wheels." I think I like this guy.
Maybe it was because they knew they'd be leading a boring press conference in about ten minutes, but when we get to the end of the course we start doing donuts. They're spinning their cars like they were in high school. I remember Vettel cracking a huge grin while my organs bounced around inside my ribcage for a while.
Formula One is all about glamour and luxury and sport. It should be like Wimbledon or the Kentucky Derby, but with 750-horsepower V8s. What we got in New Jersey was drivers doing donuts next to donut-eating cops. It was F1, New Jersey style.
Of course we loved it.
Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik