Soapbox driver has Lewis Hamilton to live up to on derby day

The Mercedes AMG Petronas soapbox
The Mercedes AMG Petronas soapbox

A team of Mercedes apprentices are gearing up for the Brackley Soapbox Derby – and they know they need to live up to the standards of their F1 racers.

Brackley-based Mercedes AMG Petronas have been involved with the derby since its inception.

Nathan Jeffrey PNL-140506-103349001

Nathan Jeffrey PNL-140506-103349001

But having cleaned up in the early years they decided to take a back seat and simply sponsor the trophies.

However this year – with Formula 1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg leading the World Championship – the team is back with a soapbox of their own in the new ‘premier class’.

Apprentice Nathan Jeffrey, 20, who will lead the team of seven, said: “There’s been no pressure put on us but of course, it’s in the back of your mind, the feeling that we’ve got to win this. It’ll be the first we haven’t won if we don’t and probably our last race too!”

Nathan went to Magdalen College School before starting an apprenticeship with touring car company GPR Motorsport, aged 16.

But when the opportunity to learn his trade at Mercedes came up, he jumped at the chance – even though he had to drop back two years.

Nathan, who lives in Brackley, said the team has been working on the soapbox for six weeks. They test-ran it through the factory car park on Wednesday and have chosen the lightest team member to drive it today.

But he said a successful soapbox needs to tick a number of boxes. “We’ve looked at rolling resistance and surface contact,” Nathan said.

“What sort of pressure to run the tyres at and finding the least amount of friction. Weight came into it too. Where do you place it? At the front or the back?

“And we’ve painted it to simulate this year’s colours so it looks fast.”

Racing starts in Brackley High Street today at 2pm.