At last the 2016 season is starting for me. This time last year I was in the middle of a massive run of race weekends in Formula Renault. But now I’ve stepped up to the GP3 Series, which generally supports the European Formula 1 Grands Prix, so it’s only now that we’re ready to kick off with the Spanish Grand Prix support races at Barcelona.
I’m driving with DAMS, a French team that’s had tons of success over the years in GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5, and lately in the Formula E electric series. They’re new to GP3 but they’re one of the top teams outside F1, no question. At this stage, all you can do with a rookie driver and a rookie team is be as prepared as you can, and I really believe that we have worked as hard as possible to prepare thoroughly.
That doesn’t mean we’ll nail it though. It’s a very difficult championship, and this is one of the strongest fields it’s ever had. We’ve just got to do what we can, which I believe can be fighting towards the front.
We’ve had the three official pre-season tests, and generally over an average it’s been very good. We’ve had our difficult moments, like at Valencia where we probably learned more than we ever anticipated because we struggled on the first day. But all the other days it’s been very good. It’s hard to say what everyone is doing in terms of what tyres they’re running at what time – you can only focus on your own team. My team-mates Kevin Jorg and Santino Ferrucci are extremely quick and I feel we’ve all done well. And in the last session, which was at Barcelona, Kevin and I were one-two, so that gives us confidence.
Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a massive Aston Villa fan, so I’m hoping that with 48 points on offer over any GP3 weekend I can outscore their season total of 17 within a couple of days – and I’m hoping to score about 10 times that over the year! What will help us is that there’s a long gap between Barcelona and the second round, so for a new team like DAMS that gives us chance to take stock and work out what we think we’ve learned and work on improving everything.
Also, it’s going to be mega racing at the Grands Prix. Every person I’ve spoken to has told me I’ll love it. OK, we’re not the main attraction but a lot of people will be watching the races, and all my family and friends can record the races and watch them on the Sky Sports F1 channel. It’ll be cool.
‘I’m looking forward to being in the F1 pit lane – it’s where you want to be eventually although you realise how far away it is, but it’s a gentle reminder of what you’re working towards.’
We also get to race at the Malaysian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, the first time GP3 has been to Malaysia. That will be great – I love the British circuits I grew up on more than anyone but it’s so exciting to be going to these new places.
What can I expect from the season? You’d be lying if you said you didn’t have one eye on the title. But this is the first race weekend – I just need to be consistent and not make mistakes. It’s a new team to GP3, a new driver. I think whoever wins the title will just be the most consistently in the top six over the year. That’s my target, and to win some races!