The first lap is easy because Bernd is merely driving quite fast, talking laconically on the radio, giving you tips on each corner which you forget the instant you hear them. He guides you through the various modes the car has to offer – Sport, Sport Plus and Race – and then helpfully adds that while we’re not meant to disable the traction and stability control systems he can’t exactly stop us. Nor, I suspect, would he dream of doing do even if he could. Fingers reach for the relevant buttons as one. But then he’s off. And when Bernd goes, he tends to stay gone.
You’d think it a recipe for disaster, but it’s not. You can brake where he brakes, turn where he turns, hit the same apexes and exits. And it all works beautifully, because instead of your instructor being there to slow you down, the actual effect of his presence is that you end up driving the car far faster than you would have had you been alone. Which means you find out more about the car and end up writing a better report. And Mercedes staff confirmed to me that since they’ve been running fast car launches this way, not a single car has been lost.