Even if you are not particularly interested in auto racing, you have likely heard of Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost – three of the best Formula 1 drivers in history. Roy Nissany, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier, may make history this week and join this elite group.
Nissany, who lives in Herzliya, inherited his love of car racing from his 52-year-old father Chanoch, a former racing driver. Chanoch made it to the Formula group himself in the past, but only as a test driver.
His son Roy began competing in kart racing at the early age of five. From the beginning, he proved to be very talented. In the past few years he has participated in Formula 3 European Championship, making a name for himself as a determined driver who never gives up.
Following his excellent performance, Nissany has been given the opportunity to test drive for Formula 1 – the highest class of single-seat auto racing. There are 11 Formula 1 groups around the world and 20 grand prix races. Nissany will test for the Swiss Sauber F1 team, which will examine if he is fit to serve as a race driver in the international championship.
The three-day tests will begin Wednesday, and the group will decide in the coming weeks whether it wants Nissany to represent it in Formula 1 races in the future. He may also be selected to serve as a test driver or represent the group in other leagues.
Nissany, who will test for Sauber alongside Chinese driver Adderly Fong, visited the F1 team's factory in Zurich last week to try out the right car for him. "I felt as if I was in NASA, with the technology and professionalism," he says. "I left the place with a 10-centimter thick book on how to operate all the buttons and steering wheel of the race car."
In recent years Nissany has won four races and reached the second or third place in nine. His race engineer, who set him up with Sauber, is optimistic: "He is a fighter who constantly works to overtake and move forward, even when there appears to be no chance."
And what is Formula 1 driving all about? You drive in an open car with an aerodynamic structure and 1,000 horsepower (an average family-sized automobile has about 120 horsepower), which can reach up to 350 kilometers an hour. In other words, you are basically a pilot operating on the ground, and it's as difficult as it sounds.
According to Nissany, the mission requires not only the highest level of driving and the utmost concentration, but also incredible physical fitness. He trains five times a week, about four hours each time.
"A Formula driver needs strong muscles, mainly in his neck, in order to keep his head up against the g forces," he says. It takes so much effort, that in a 90-monute Formula race each driver loses about three kilograms. Moreover, the competition involves a great amount of risk, as an accident in such a high speed could end very badly.
But Nissany has only one thing on his mind right now – his crucial driving test on two-year-old Sauber C31 in Spain this week. "I am very excited," he says. "It's a dream come true."
If he is accepted it will be a great honor for the State of Israel too, as each Formula 1 driver races under his country's flag, which appears on his car.