My first pole position in the GP3 Series, my first podium in GP3 – and all this on not only my debut in the series, but also the DAMS team’s first race.
The theme of testing was that we were towards the front in qualifying simulations. We were second in the last Barcelona test session, so we were looking good. But we thought our race pace was even stronger.
In the first part of qualifying I was 16th and we were really struggling. You can’t do much in the middle of a GP3 qualifying session but we made some small changes and it brought the car exactly into the window, and I was able to exploit it. To get my first pole as a rookie made me really chuffed.
I said to myself I’m just going to have to rag it to try to even get in the top 10, but by the time I got to the second half of my preparation lap I knew it was a lot better. So I just attacked at 110 per cent right from Turn 1 and managed to complete the lap without any mistakes.
‘The team did such a good job, with only three pre-season tests under their belt, to lock out the front row with me and my team-mate Kevin Jorg against established top GP3 teams like ART, Trident and Arden.’
At the start, Charles Leclerc from ART got the jump on me and Kevin. ART seem to have very good starts, and I don’t think ours were that bad but they definitely weren’t good enough. We certainly need to improve them. I was lying second to Charles and trying to get a move on him, and even with about six laps to go I thought I had a chance of winning because I expected my tyres to last better than his, but I started to struggle with oversteer. These new Pirellis in GP3 have thermal degradation, so although they don’t wear too badly you get these little micro-slides in the middle of the corner.
With the reversed grid for race two, my second place from race one meant I started in seventh place. Again our starts weren’t too good, and Matevos Isaakyan and Nyck de Vries passed me although Nirei Fukuzumi had a shocker, so I only had a net loss of one place.
It was a bit close with Leclerc to Turn 1 but I kept him behind to retain eighth, and that’s where I stayed the whole race. We learned our lesson from race one and brought the car more into line with what we’d had in testing. Kevin was struggling a bit more than me but never enough for me to attack him – if I’d got past I think I could have caught the next group. Still, another point for eighth completed a great weekend!
That’s put me third in the championship, just four points behind Leclerc who’s leading, with a long gap until the next round supporting the Austrian Grand Prix at the beginning of July. You really get bragging rights from a pole position – that’s what shows how quick you are and we put it on pole and did the job. It’s definitely a confidence boost. It’s still early days, but we’ve got the points we wanted!
I’d like to finish by thanking the team around me – everyone’s worked so hard – the engineers, mechanics, my trainers, my parents, my management. It’s very very early days in the season but this was close enough to a dream start that we can all be proud.