Three months out of the car is a long time, but I’ve just finished the first pre-season test for the 2016 GP2 Series at Barcelona. It was three days straight of driving, and now I feel as though I haven’t spent any time away from the car at all.
I’ve stayed with the DAMS team for a second season. It gives me continuity and I know they’re a great team so we can challenge for the title. The test went very, very well I have to say I’m so happy with how the three days went. We were extremely busy. The team did a lot of work over the winter and changed quite a lot of things the car has had a massive makeover to get quite a few things tinkered with.
What I’m really pleased about is how hard the team have worked. It’s clear that there was a lot of domination from ART Grand Prix last year, and they won the title quite easily with Stoffel Vandoorne. Credit to them they did a great job. But what I really like is that we’ve all looked in the mirror and said we obviously need to raise our game, not just on the car but on the driving side. That’s the only way you can improve, by having a proper look in the mirror.
I’m impressed with how the whole team have responded to last year, and that shows with the laps we did the whole test was very well constructed. Hopefully this is the start of a very well-executed season.
Barcelona is where I took my first GP2 win last year, and I won there in GP3 as well, so I’m pretty much at home on the track. The highest position I had in any of the sessions at this test was third, on the first morning, when I was just a tenth off the pace, but the lap times in testing only tell a fraction of the story there’s no prizes given out for being fastest in testing!
You don’t get a huge amount of tyres for the three days, so everyone did a baseline run on the first morning. Then the rain came for the afternoon, and that made the last two days very busy because now we had quite a few tyres to get though.
On the second day we just did race runs. You might have seen I was 24th out of 24 in the morning and my new team-mate Nicholas Latifi was 23rd, but we weren’t going for times at all it was 90 per cent dedicated to long runs. Taking the day as a whole, it went very well. You never know, but I’m confident we’ve made progress on something that was sometimes our weak point last year.
On the third day pretty much everyone did qualifying simulations. I was fourth fastest, but I certainly wasn’t driving balls to the wall so I was quite pleased we were that fast anyway, qualifying is something DAMS have never struggled with.
That’s it now until the next three-day test at Jerez in a couple of weeks’ time, but I’m also really happy to be back with the Williams Martini Racing team in Formula 1 as a development driver. It’s great for me, and I’m looking forward to doing a good job for them again this season.