|Tuesday, April 24, 2012 1:12AM|
It’s been a while since we last spoke! I apologize for not being in touch over the winter, but I spent my time after the F1 Young Driver’s Test in Abu Dhabi back in California with my family and it was a brilliant time to be able to reset everything in order to be completely refreshed for a new attack on the 2012 World Series by Renault season. I spent some time up in Alaska with friends and also had a couple of trips to New York and Las Vegas for sponsorship meetings as well as a bit of fun. With that being said, the off-season did seem to go on for quite a while and when I returned back to England in February 2012, I was really anxious to get back in a racecar.
Having signed with the newly formed Arden Caterham motorsports as well as the Caterham F1 test driver for the year, the expectations are high and the goals of the entire team are to deliver a championship winning campaign as I finished 3rd last year as a rookie. World Series by Renault has launched a new FR3.5 car for this season and I have to say that it is nothing short of mind-blowing. The amount of down force available is staggering as it rivals that of a Formula 1 car and it is very apparent in the lap times, pulling nearly five seconds clear of last year’s car. It is an absolute joy to drive and I am thrilled to be returning to the series and look forward to the opportunity that I have with the Caterham family.
When we arrived at the first test at Paul Ricard in France, you could feel the excitement throughout the paddock. It was great to see some of the drivers that I knew from the previous year or the FIA Institute Academy and it quickly became obvious that the competition was going to be at a level that was not yet achieved, as Formula Renault 3.5 becomes the leading junior formula in the world.
Leaving the pit lane for the first time in a new car is always an exciting process because the fact that you have a blank slate in front of you and the chance to completely develop the car around you is not something that you get to do very often. Unfortunately, I only made it to turn three before the car came to a silent stop and we had an electrical failure. This would mark the first of any problems that we would experience throughout this test and while it was disappointing to get very few laps under our belts, especially as a new team, it was understandable as, like I mentioned before, this was a completely blank slate. Not only a new environment for the team, but a completely new car is certainly going to result in a fair share of teething issues.
With that said, we took what we could from the test and went to the second pre-season FR3.5 test Barcelona looking to get some proper laps done and begin our massive test plan. To our dismay, the weather on the south coast of Spain was incredibly wet and with an engine detonation, the number of laps that we racked up was minimal at best. To be honest, this put us on the back foot going into the last test as we still had yet to figure out a baseline for the car and considering the team is new, we have no background data to work from. We went to our final test at Motorland Aragon last week with our fingers crossed hoping for a test that was positive in the sense that we were simply able to put kilometers on the car.
Fortunately, the weather in Spain this time around was the definition of perfection and the car reliability was at its best. We spent the two days finally going through the key set up points that we had questions on and while the pace wasn’t exactly there, we closed the cap to the leaders by about 70%, which was encouraging considering this was our first two days of proper running. The position that we are in at the moment is certainly one of playing catch up, but if we can keep the development rate the same as it was in Aragon, then it won’t be long now until we are fighting at the front of the grid.
While the mountain still left to climb is big, I have complete faith in the Arden Caterham team surrounding me and based on the progress that we made last week in Aragon, the confidence and morale is high. The pace is coming and not a moment to soon, as I will be heading back to Spain in two weeks time for the FR3.5 season opener. I have great memories from this track last year and will be looking to match that and flip the script on pre-season testing.
Thank you for your support and I am looking forward to an incredible year with all of you.
With warmest regards,