It has been a whirlwind set of weeks since World Series by Renault pre-season testing finished in March combined with my FIA Institute and Air Asia Team Lotus Driver Development Program duties.
As you all know, I’m competing in World Series by Renault this year with Fortec Motorsports and our goal is to simply win the championship.
Before I get into the first two events and giving you my feelings of the outcomes, let me first update you on a bit of very exciting news that came about at the beginning of April. I was announced as one of the drivers for the Air Asia Team Lotus Driver Development Program. This was announced the weekend before the Formula One event in Malaysia at the countries capital in Putrajaya (outside of Kuala Lumpur). I was on hand to help demo the F1 car with Jarno and Heikki for the fans that came to experience the thrill of Formula One machinery on city streets. I am looking forward to being a part of Team Lotus and working with them to help me reach my goal of Formula One by 2012.
Getting back to my main focus for this year, the WSR season kicked off in Aragon, Spain two weeks ago in quite a fashion. The team and I were quick in pre-season testing having very little time working together, so we went into the event with high expectations of getting the season off to a good start. We worked through some issues early on in the weekend and found ourselves qualifying second for the first race, just missing pole by 2/100ths of a second.
I started opposite Robert Wickens who is a long-time friend and competitor of mine and knew that I was in for a difficult race. The start was less than ideal, but fortunately I was able to come out of T1 still in second, however not behind Robert, but Daniil Move. Over the first half of the race I did everything in my power to get by him, but Dani was able to drive an impressively defensive race and the passing opportunities at Aragon are slim at best. Trying to force him into a mistake, I finally caught him a bit offline and was able to make a pass up against the pit wall heading into turn one. From there, I just focused on opening a gap and maintaining the tires until the end of the race. We set the quickest lap and finished ahead of Wickens in P2 by 8.5 seconds.
Race two was a bit less dramatic as I had a difficult qualifying session which saw me start in 8th, but due to the regulations requiring that one mandatory pit stop be made, we were able to pit out of sequence and post a number of qualifying pace laps that moved us up to P2 when all of the pit stops and shuffled through. This was a great result for us as we started from a less than idea position.
Thus said, we came out of Aragaon with the championship lead and a renewed sense of accomplishment. We were ready to fight for the championship.
A short two weeks later we returned to the track at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps, which is one of my personal favorite tracks. Many who have watched or been to Spa will tell you that rain is almost a guarantee at every race event; however, we were blessed with beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures. This made the playing field level and the competition impressively stiff. We had a good pace in practice, but we knew that the pace wasn’t completely there like it was in Aragon as we were missing a bit of performance from the car.
Unfortunately, throughout the weekend we were never able to fully get a solid balance and had two disappointing qualifying results: 11th and 15th. We proved in Aragon that our race pace on the other hand was very solid and this showed this past weekend as we were able to move up to 7th place in both races. While this wasn’t the points haul we were looking for after the opening round, we are happy with the fact that we are able to pull off points scoring finishes to put us 3rd in the championship, just 16 points off the lead.
We go to Monza ready to regain what was taken from us in Spa. Our understanding of what went wrong is clear and we are ready to take the fight to Carlin. I cannot thank the team enough for the amount of effort that they put in every day and through this we will deliver.
Thank you also to you for your continual support and encouragement. It does not go unnoticed and I feel I’m blessed to have all of you in my corner.
I hope that you have enjoyed hearing about the latest from my point of view.