« I want to bang in some great results to kick my season off well…. »
It’s been long enough We’re finally getting set for the start of the GP2 Series season, supporting the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona this weekend. All the talking’s over now, and along with the DAMS team who I’m staying with for a second season we’re honestly as ready as we can be.
We’ve been working really hard in the off season, we’ve had the three official tests, and now it’s just about trying to do the job correctly.
Barcelona is a happy hunting ground for me. I won there on my debut GP3 weekend in 2014, and last year I took my first GP2 win there in the sprint race. Because of that I’m really looking forward to it. Not only because I seem to click with the track, but because it’s a really nice Grand Prix weekend it’s the first European Grand Prix of the season so there’s always a nice atmosphere, so I’m especially excited that we’re kickstarting our GP2 campaign there this year.
It’s a track that’s notoriously hard on tyres, with a never-ending run of long medium and high-speed corners. We think we’re looking OK on tyre performance, but you can never tell from winter testing, which always gives you strange results. At Jerez, which is a killer for tyres, we were among those who did long runs and we were actually going quicker at the end of our run as the fuel burned off. All we could say was, ‘Yeah, that’s not realistic.’
We all know that for all the winter testing results, when the lights go out for the first race of the season it’s never the same. But we’re as prepared as we can be to know what the situation’s going to be.
I’ve got a new team-mate this year Nicholas Latifi. As a guy he’s really easy to get on with. He’s less experienced at this level than I am and that means things are probably more in my favour because all eyes will be on me to deliver the team performance. It was a bit tricky last year with Pierre Gasly, because he was very quick and the team always tried to make things very equal on strategy. Pierre and I had some really hard fights on the track, but we were always really close away from it we just left behind whatever had happened on the track.
It’s nice to know that a lot of people are tipping me among the championship favourites. But that doesn’t put any more pressure on me than I put on myself, to be honest. I know what I’m capable of and what I should be able to do. I haven’t really thought about my competitors during the build-up; I believe that if we perform as we should and we don’t make any mistakes as a team we’ll be hard to beat. There are a lot of fast drivers, but we’re just focusing on ourselves and doing the best job we can.
Not that I can think about it yet, but I’ve also got something else to look forward to: on Tuesday I’ll be driving in the Formula 1 test for the Williams-Mercedes team. I’ve been out of a racing car for so long and now all this is coming up so quickly! I’m really looking forward to that too, especially as I know we’ve got an interesting test schedule. I’ve been doing quite a lot of work on their simulator in my role as development driver, but there’s nothing like the real thing But first and foremost, it’s GP2 that my sights are on this weekend.
I want to bang in some great results to kick my season off well, not only for me but for my sponsors Terra Firma, House Network, YCo, Alpinestars, Arai and Eye Respect. I’m really grateful for their support and hope to deliver some good results for them this weekend.