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Michai Stephens: F1 Style

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

Brigstock, England – Hmm, how to put my last few days into words…. Thinking, thinking, oh, I got it! Inspiring, surreal, unbelievable, jaw-dropping, heart-warming and a mind-blowing experience of a LIFE TIME!

If two years ago I told you that I would one day find my way into the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 Team headquarters in Brackley England, you probably would have thought I was absolutely crazy, and to be honest I would have agreed! We need to remember where I have come from and just how far I’ve traveled. My experience at Mercedes F1 and then, a day later, circulating the Silverstone International circuit in our Cliff Dempsey-prepared, Team USA Scholarship Ray chassis Formula Fords has done simply that, reminding me of the immensely privileged and sought-after life I have been so thankfully living the past two-and-a-half years.

When Jeremy confirmed with us that Mr. Meadows had agreed to give us a tour around the factory I couldn’t believe it. I have come to idolize this team and its drivers over the passing years, thus making such an already awesome visit just that little bit better! What surprised me at first was the location of the factory. It sat just off a round-about right in Brackley, and if there wasn’t a discrete sign I might have missed it. My vision of this massive structure nestled in the rolling hills of England, protected by skyscraper-like fences wasn’t the case. But from the moment the guard’s gate lifted you could quickly tell why. Such things were unnecessary and a distraction from what really mattered – the performance and execution of driver, machine and team.

Multiple buildings stood on either side of the main road. Paint shops to simulator bays led us to the gem of them all – the workshop, housing the design team, team boss offices and factory team HQ. It all worked in a seemingly effortless flow. Having never been to an F1 race, or ever seeing a Formula 1 car in person, the sight of Lewis Hamilton’s 2014 championship-winning car nearly took my breath away. It was more then just a car to me. It represented a story for both Lewis and myself. The message this Silver Arrow reflected was a never-give-up attitude and an “anything is possible” way of thinking. Having had the time to spend a few moments in its presence obviously meant a lot to me and will NEVER be forgotten! After touring the facility and seeing/holding some extraordinary items, it was time to roll on home.

Thanks to Michelle Dempsey for driving us, I was able to once again catch up on some sleep before awakening at the door of her and Cliff’s home. The following morning it was off to Silverstone for Dakota, the team and myself. The International circuit would be our playground for two 25-minute sessions. We used this time to our best abilities by finalizing a few bits and continuing to develop our comfort within the car. Working out of the new F1 garages really added some spice to the experience and continued our F1-like lifestyle : ) . I found myself getting the biggest joy from driving in and out of pit lane! But once on track, the eve and flow of the corners took hold of my focus.

I felt as if I was driving “through” the history books of our sport yet again. Adding a bit of child-like imagination, I was soon racing for a “World Championship” down the Hanger Straight and into Stowe Corner. Then turning onto the International Pit Straight and flicking it into Abbey reminded me of the Vettel and Alonso duel two years back and the sights of Mr. Lewis Hamilton putting it down in the wet last year….

With the short day coming to a close we had checked off all our “to do’s” for the afternoon, so returned to the transporter for another one of Michelle’s wonderful meals. Cliff and Jack continued on with some prep work and development of our Formula Fords, then joined us for dinner. Once again the cars had been flawless!

A much needed thanks to Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 for welcoming us with open arms and Jeremy Shaw, Leigh Diffey and Steve Matchett for the intro! None of this would have ever become possible without the help of the Skip Barber Racing School as they single handedly allowed for my introduction into the world of motorsports. To friends, family and great supporters, THANK YOU for hanging in there and continuing to join me on this journey.

To those who are chasing your dreams, stay after it! You never know what you might wake up too. Heck, the other day I touched the future!

Respectfully, Michai

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