The middle race of a tiring triple-header, Lando Norris reflects on a difficult weekend at the Red Bull Ring.
By Lando Norris, Carlin F2 driver: @LandoNorris
Last Updated: 03/07/18 11:02am
Paul Ricard, Red Bull Ring and Silverstone on consecutive weekends makes it an incredibly busy time for me and the entire Carlin team – with everyone working extremely hard.
I was knackered last Monday having got delayed flying back from Marseille but still needed to get my racing gear washed. I was on the sim at Pro-Sim on Tuesday preparing for Austria, Jon Malvern came around to my place to work on my neck, before flying out to Austria on Wednesday morning.
But spare a thought for Carlin ‘truckie’ Geoff Hallam, for example, who was driving the 800-miles from Ricard to the RBR, 16 hours behind the wheel spread over three days. As you read this, he’s heading to Silverstone, aiming to arrive there early Tuesday afternoon after a 1,000-mile journey so that the guys can start prepping the race cars for our ‘home’ race. It’s literally non-stop for all concerned!
I was excited to go back to the RBR. It’s a track I’d had really good races on in the past but my last F3 one was not so good. I’d won in [Formula] Renault and had a second in F3 last year – but the third race didn’t quite work out.
It’s quite tough but overall a good circuit for racing so I was looking forward to that aspect the most. After most corners there’s a longish straight so there is a lot of time to be lost or gained on the brakes – making a mistake is pretty easy while we had three DRS zones.
It was wet on Thursday morning and I had an appointment with F1 Racing magazine to drive a McLaren 570S roadcar around the countryside close to the track which was pretty cool. I had an interview with the Guardian newspaper then did a quick lap of the track on my bike.
Friday morning’s session wasn’t the best. It was quite difficult and we finished up P6 but almost half a second off George Russell in P1. The car could have been better while I could have driven better too.
We found some things in the data from practice and made some changes to the car for qualifying later that afternoon but I was still surprised that I made it onto the front row with George taking pole.
My first push lap was pretty good for P3 but I made some mistakes. I improved slightly but remained P3. Pitted for a new set of supersofts and managed to jump ahead of my team-mate Sergio and on to the front row.
But on Friday night the F2 organisers made the decision to start both of this weekend’s races – and those at Silverstone this coming weekend – from behind the Safety Car, effectively a rolling start in line, in a bid to combat the stalling problem most drivers have suffered on the starting grid in previous races.
The organisers are working very hard to rectify the issue but with races on three consecutive weekends, it’s been an uphill battle for them. I’m confident they’ll get it right for Hungary.
I can’t remember ever starting a race from behind the Safety Car but it worked out. The tyre wear on the supersofts was extremely high, from the second lap the tyres were going away, and I’d already made the decision to pit as soon as the “window” opened on lap six.
As it turned out, the Safety Car appeared at that point and so all but I think three cars pitted. I followed George in and we came out together behind three cars that were running a different strategy, starting on softs.
I dropped a couple of places, one following another Safety Car period, as I tried to ‘manage’ my tyres to the end while George had jumped a couple of cars ahead of me. But in the closing laps I moved up to second again when the other cars pitted and those that had overtaken me used up their tyres more than I had. Second place was okay – more points.
The Sprint race was really tough. I must have over-cooked the tyres and it was then just a spiralling effect in terms of no grip regards to traction, braking, everything. It was my mistake – I didn’t do a good enough job tyre saving and paid the price by losing the championship lead.
I flew home on Sunday evening, will do some training with Jon on Tuesday, while Sergio and I will be on the sim on Wednesday prepping for Silverstone. I’ll get to the track on Thursday morning for some media appointments. Look forward to seeing some of you guys there – come and say hi, it’s going to be a big battle!
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