Marussia Manor GP3 driver Dino Zamparelli talks about his experience of the Spanish Grand Prix.
Put the kettle on, there’s a lot to talk about
Wow what a weekend. The Spanish Grand Prix was reunited with the Barcelona circuit this weekend – a
weekend which saw the 2013 GP3 Series kick off at the Spanish capital, a weekend which reaffirmed my thoughts on one particular GP2 driver (we all know who) and a weekend which saw Fernando Alonso almost get done for picking up a Spanish Flag after taking an imperious victory in front of his adoring crowd. (Were they having us on?!)
Let’s talk about me first. I was excited, I was happy and I was eager to get going. I had been working my socks off since January to be fully prepared, both physically and mentally for my first GP3 race of the year. GP3 must be one of the last championships to get going – but it usually brings some real excitement to the F1 package.
I flew over on the Wednesday, which was two days before Friday Free Practice. I managed to see my team briefly on Wednesday before heading back to the hotel and getting an early night. Thursday was prep day – so doing all of the things needed to prepare for the weekend.
Firstly, my new race suit was delivered from Sparco. I handed in my measurements a few weeks back and they delivered all of the under garments and race stuff on Thursday. Trying a whole new outfit is often nervy for a driver, especially when it’s delivered to the track the day before the event. What if it’s too tight? Or ridiculously loose? I was just praying they were going to be OK; which fortunately everything fitted nicely and I felt good in my new suit.
I then had to get some photos taken for GP3 in my new race gear. I did my best impression of Derek Zoolander, before heading off to do a track walk with my team. This is something that most team and drivers do (unless you’re Kimi Raikkonen…). The track was only open from 11 onwards – so me and my fellow team mates in Marussia Manor travelled down to the Marussia garage and followed the Marussia F1 boys along the way. We looked at braking points, the optimal lines through a corner, and generally going through everything with my engineer.
Once that was done, we went through lots of data and video analysis, before shooting off to the hotel for some lovely Italian pasta and another early night.
I woke up Friday morning, had a nice breakfast at 7am. I got ready and pumped for the Free Practice session for that day. And then…and then I realised the GP3 practice wasn’t until 5:30 that evening!! A full day of waiting and standing around is so much worse when you just want to get out there! At least I was able to watch the F1 and was even invited by Marussia to watch the practice in their garage. It’s crazy to see just how many men and women are working over the weekend for the F1. We all know the sound of an F1 car is immense, but until you’re actually stood directly behind one, with the driver revving that engine like a lion trying to fight his way out of a cage, you cannot appreciate it to its full extent. Put it this way, it was loud.
Finally though, my time had come. The time for my official GP3 series debut was approaching and suddenly I was in the pit lane in my car, (which I’ve called Robin, by the way). I got out on circuit and settled into my first GP3 official practice session. Other than not actually being able to complete a lap due to horrendous traffic, it was fine! Traffic on a race circuit is always a key issue for drivers – it’s one of those things that really, really frustrate you, but you literally cannot do anything about it.
The only way to compare getting traffic when you’re on a good lap is; imagine doing a day’s work and earning a nice wage, you’re happy with how hard you’ve worked for the money and happy that you’ve finally got some cash. You walk into your house and nothing is going to ruin the day now because you’ve got money – you open a letter you find on the floor and it’s got two parking fines and a speeding fine in it, thus blowing the cash that you’ve earned that day. That feeling you get right there, is the feeling of being on a nice lap and then coming into the final few turns and seeing about 10 cars all slowing down and setting themselves up for a good lap. It’s very frustrating, and the only thing you can do is accept it.
Saturday morning was what I was focussed on anyway. A 30 minute qualifying session and hopefully traffic wasn’t going to be a massive issue. Luckily, traffic was not an issue and although I made a small mistake on my hot lap, I was going to start my first race in 9th place, which wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t great, as I was gunning for pole position, but for my first GP3 session, I wasn’t too despondent. I could race from 9th and the clear goal was to be inside the top 8 by the finish as the top 8 get reversed for race two. So if you win the race, you start 8th, if you finished 8th you would start on pole for race two and so on.
I was in 9th with three laps to go and I was much quicker than the guy ahead of me, and with the golden carrot dangling ahead of me for 8th spot, I got a bit hasty and impatient to overtake and unfortunately misjudged my braking point. Before I knew it, I was heading towards the gravel trap at 100mph, jumping out my car and on the side lines watching the field go through the following lap. All of a sudden my race was over. I was distraught yes, but I made a mistake and quickly picked myself up and moved on. I will learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
To add a little bit of insult to injury, salt the wounds and to add a knife into my back, I received a ten place grid penalty for my move. So incase there is any doubt about where I was starting race two from, I was starting from dead last.
Race two was actually fun; before the start of the race, I thought points were completely out the question, as points only went up to 8th place for race two. By the end of the lap one however, after having dispatched of 13 cars, I started to believe it may be possible after all! Let me tell you now, that was where my charge ended, and points wasn’t going to be possible. However, having overtaken 13 cars on lap one, with some nice moves around the outside and inside; I was fairly positive about my weekend as a whole. I ended up the race in 15th spot from 27th.
Tyres are big topic for discussion. I read this morning that Pirelli are going to rein the tyres back soon, as the racing was becoming too artificial. From a driver’s point of view, the tyres are a nightmare. From a spectator’s point of view, it’s quite interesting. But I believe as a whole, it’s swung too far to being on the verge of ridiculous. Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari stopped four times in the Spanish GP. Four times!? That was unheard of a few years back – if you stopped four times then, it’s because you had a mechanical issue or you were pretending to have one because you were hopelessly fighting at the back and realised points weren’t going to be possible.
The GP3 tyres are fairly similar to the F1; i.e. the characteristics are the same. As a series, we were unsure about how long the tyres would actually last. We had done the practice yes, but we hadn’t been able to do long runs in high track temperatures. So the Barcelona race was a bit of an unknown for us. The tyres did last longer than I anticipated, but they were still going off at the end. Some drivers struggled more than others. At one point I saw a Red Bull car go from 4th to 20th in about 2 laps…he obviously had a bit too much Red Bull and was a bit too throttle happy. Or maybe he just needed a parachute as oppose to wings? His tyres looked awful and that was simply because he was too eager on the throttle and the brakes in the opening laps.
My tyres were in fairly good shape, other than in race two. When you’re fighting for every last inch in the middle of the pack, the tyres naturally go off more than if you’re at the front by yourself. As a driver, it’s difficult to actually race on these tyres. If you fight too much with the cars around you, you kill the tyre. One lock up, one slide or one wrong line through a corner and you start the ball rolling for your tyres to overheat at the rear and dispense all the grip onto the track. When you’re fighting for that inch with another driver, a lock up, a slide or a slightly wrong line is just something that happens.
In that case, it’s almost better not to fight with the other driver. It’s better to let the car go and do your own race and preserve the tyres. This is such an unnatural thing for a racing driver to do because all we want to do is race and not let anyone passed. But it’s much like the hare and the tortoise story; where the hare and the tortoise have a race. They start and the hare runs off and leaves the tortoise for dead – only to get tired and have a rest half way through the race. At which point the tortoise, who is still going as he took it slowly, manages to overtake the hare eventually and wins the race.
So Pirelli have designed a tyre which is best compared to a children’s story. The moral of that story…there’s no point being fast – take is easy, go slow and you’ll win the race. But isn’t that the exact opposite of what racing is all about?…
As a driver, I just get on with it. I don’t have an opinion on what it should or shouldn’t be – I just look at the situation and keep those tyres alive as best I can, whilst still racing as hard as possible.
Talking of racing hard, driving standards has once again been called into question after the GP2 race turned into whacky racers. There’s one driver that stood out as driving very poorly, in my opinion. (And from what I read, a fair few others agree) Johnny Cecotto decided to side swipe the Caterham car in race two. Something that I was sure he would get banned for. That sort of driving is outrageous. A racing car is a dangerous, and given to the wrong driver, it can become deadly.
Johnny Cecotto has done this before and will no doubt do it again. I got a 10 place grid penalty for racing hard and trying my best to avoid an accident with the car in 8th place in my first race. Something I thought was pretty harsh seeing as ultimately, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. I held my hands up at the time and admitted it was my mistake and that I was just a bit too over exuberant. However, when you side swipe someone, with the clear intent to put them on the grass and not let them through; how is that allowed to get away without punishment?
I’m sure that the driving standards will be raised in the next race at Monaco – especially with safety being paramount there. Johnny Cecotto will not get away with it for much longer, and if he decides to do something like that again, I’m certain he will get banned.
The standards in GP3 I thought were good. All drivers showed respect, from what I could see, and there wasn’t anything that was worth talking about.
If the race stewards had something to answer for when the news that Cecotto hadn’t been given a penalty after the GP2 race, then can you imagine the reaction of everyone when the news that Fernando Alonso was being investigated by the stewards for ‘picking up an object after the chequered flag’, I believe was the phrase. Why would you even investigate that? They would have had a riot on their hands if they had given him some sort of punishment. Thankfully, Alonso kept his win and no further action was taken. I have to say, usually, the stewards make the right call. Sometimes in racing it isn’t always easy, but a lot of the time, the stewards are harsh but fair.
After the F1 race ended, I was on a flight back to Bristol and heading for home. A weekend which wasn’t what I was aiming for ultimately, but overall it was a positive one. I learned a great deal about GP3 as a whole, how it all works and what I need to do in the future. For me, all the pieces of the puzzle are there, I just have to put them together now if I want to start fighting for victories.
The next GP3 race is at Valencia on the 15th of June – it’s not on the F1 package so will be behind closed doors effectively. However, I will be working harder than ever to ensure that I’m even fitter and even more prepared for that one. I will be working with my team, Marussia Manor to go through everything and work harder to be better next time out.
The motto that I love and live by is, “It’s hard to beat somebody who doesn’t give up”. I’m even more determined and hungrier to be on top next time out.
All the best.
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