I’m pleased with my first test in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, which is where I’ll be racing next season. We had three days of running on the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, and I finished off as the fastest F2 rookie in the final session – and in the overall times across the whole three day test.
I tested with ART Grand Prix, the team with whom I finished runner-up in the GP3 Series this year. It was an opportunity for me to really get to know the F2 side of the team and to get to grips with the car. It’s a different group of people, but I got to know them a bit during the season by popping in to their awning. I’m glad to say that over the three days of the test, we really gelled and everyone worked very well together.
Before the F2 testing there were three days from the end of the GP3 season. Happily there was Formula 1 Pirelli tyre testing going on. As a member of the Renault Sport Academy, I was able to go to the track and spend most of the day in the Renault Sport F1 garage, listening to the discussions between the engineers and drivers. It was a lot quieter than the race weekend so there was freedom to move around, watching everything that was going on, and trying to soak up the knowledge.
The F2 test started well straight away, and I went second quickest on the first morning. That was better than expected for my first day in the car, and throughout the test our pace was strong when we were happy with the car set up. We worked through some different balances, testing several options.
We also concentrated on race runs in some sessions – some teams take a very serious approach to this, and preparation for longer runs can be a big part of that. If you look at the times for the final morning, you’ll see that I was right down in 18th place, fractions ahead of Nyck de Vries and my team-mate George Russell. But those were 18-lap runs, while others were going for quick times. Strangely perhaps we can take confidence from this. ART really don’t feel the need to be top of the timing sheets. They’d rather go through the process and learn.
It was good being alongside my GP3 team-mate George for the three days. He’s quick, he has a lot of support behind him and with the two of us together it meant we had a good, consistent comparison. We worked well through the test, and I was pleased to be ahead of him – particularly because he was ahead of me on the last GP3 weekend, ART also did a great job to set some good targets for us.
There’s a new F2 car coming for next year, but this test was still valuable. While the car will look dramatically different, and it will be heavier because it has the halo head protection, the philosophy of the car will be quite similar to this one. Power-wise it will be similar, although the delivery of the power will be different. The tyres and much of the suspension will remain the same, so definitely a lot of things we were doing will be useful for next year.
Altogether, it was very encouraging as I build towards what will hopefully be a full attack on the F2 championship in 2018. You have to be really careful when you’re looking at testing times and not read too much into them. But I was the fastest rookie with a very representative fourth fastest time in the final session, and well in among a pack of guys who were up there fighting for F2 victories in 2017. I can definitely say I’m going into the winter quite happy.