ALL eyes are on Britain's Formula One star Lewis Hamilton after a flawless drive in the opening Grand Prix of the season in Australia.

Hamilton's emergence as the next Briton to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell and Jackie Stewart as our next Formula One World Champion, is a fantastic prospect.

But the ease of his victory in Melbourne did little to inspire me that an exciting season of motorsport is ahead of us. In fact, I can see Hamilton walking it like Michael Schumacher in years gone by.

As much as I want to see Hamilton win the title and defend it year after year, I still want to see breathtaking Grand Prix racing - like the days of Alain Prost and Ayton Senna.

Sadly, I fear even the exclusion of traction control in this year's Formula One Championship cannot return the sport to its more memorable years.

However, when I was offered the chance to take to the wheel of a single-seater car at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, I thought anything Hamilton can do, I can do too! After all, it looks so easy on television doesn't it?

Now I wasn't about to set off in Hamilton's McLaren, but according to driving instructor Steve Deeks, the Formula Silverstone single-seater is the nearest a mere driving mortal like you or I is going to get to it.

"These bespoke, race-prepared cars produce 140bhp (brake horse power) and can accelerate from 0-60mph in less than five seconds," explained Steve. "It is the closest the everyday person on the street can get to driving a Formula One car and believe me it is not too far away from the real thing itself.

The one thing it does do is give you a realistic idea of the speed, handling and G-forces of a Grand Prix car."

The thought of crashing crossed my mind and, if I braved getting up to speeds of 100mph round the scaled-down circuit, I'd surely spin off and end up in the gravel at some point!

After an intensive safety induction, it was off to the track with the adrenalin pumping. The first thing you notice about the car is how small the driver's seat is. Then, having finally squeezed into the car, you actually realise how close you are to the track - so close in fact that if you drove over a matchstick you'd probably feel it!

Once you've found the pedals you realise how small they are... you could literally tap all three with one foot if you wanted to! Then there's the gearbox... it's barely the size of iPod, and it's on your right-hand side. All of a sudden any thoughts of crashing or spinning off had all but vanished. I'd be lucky to get out of the pits at this rate!

After a press of a button the engine was running and the roar of the 1600cc Ford Duratec engine was phenomenal. A mere touch on the accelerator and that roar doubled. Then it was go, go, go!

The first session saw the field of racing wannabes follow a pace car around the track, but with that drill over, it was just the car, the track and me. And what a feeling!

Now I've been inside one of Egypt's pyramids, been in an air balloon over the Nile and a helicopter over Niagara Falls, but it just doesn't compare to this.

From the roar of the engine to the G-force you feel as you open up the throttle, it is awesome. You feel every bump on the track and the physical and mental strain is draining.

Twenty minutes had flown by and my confidence had grown so much I felt what it must feel like to be Lewis Hamilton. Then I had a split-second loss of concentration. Nearing 100mph down the home straight, I braked far too late, missed my gear change and suddenly the back end of the car had a mind of its own. Fortunately I recovered, just, and kept the car on the track accompanied by an incredible adrenalin rush.

And in that split second there was my answer.

I'd barely managed to concentrate for 20 minutes doing half the speed Formula One drivers race at with just a handful of other drivers on scaled-down circuit. What must it be like for Hamilton and Co to race at 200mph? And how do they stay on the track for almost two hours?

The answer is clear. They are extremely talented individuals and, having had a small taste of what they do, they more than justify their multi-million pound pay packets. They are risking their lives.

For me now it's back to my battered S-reg Ford Escort but the next time I see Hamilton seemingly coasting round the track I can at least now appreciate the huge battle he faces behind the wheel to keep his car on the track.