08.12.22 NL Blog
Abu Dhabi GP: The story behind my weekend
So, today was when I finally got to go racing in F1 and for the first time my nerves began to build. It was just the anticipation I guess, the excitement of making my debut. If you didn’t feel anything it wouldn’t be normal.
I was eager to get going. Being strapped into the car and pulling up on the grid was a special time. I’ve watched it on TV a million times and now I was experiencing it. Okay, it was a bit different without spectators and the media around, but those moments, and being in the circle for the national anthem, felt almost surreal.
To finally take the start, the lights out moment, was a terrific feeling. I got off cleanly with no risks. This wasn’t the race for any of that.
I wanted to get the laps in, not throw it away by doing something silly. This was all about the learning opportunity. I settled into a rhythm but it wasn’t a straightforward race. From only the second lap we were struggling with a few temperature-related issues I had to manage by staying out of the tow. I also had a lot of dirty air. Everyone says in F1 it’s 20 times worse than what you’re used to in other racing categories and I can confirm they’re right – it’s insane how much grip you lose.
I got a bit unlucky with the Safety Car; hindsight is a great thing in racing but we probably needed to pit on the first lap, even if that meant stacking both cars. In the event I ended up 12 or 13 seconds behind the train at the restart. A benefit however was being in clean air, and I was able to settle into a rhythm. I felt more comfortable and was able to extract more from the car. My pace relative to Grosjean and George looked pretty good.
Then the Safety Car came out again and I was able to close the gap to the cars ahead. That felt good, even if it meant dealing with the same issues I had earlier in the race. By then there was a lot else going on – cars breaking down, tyres flying off, tyres blowing up right in front of me! I guess it was a race of attrition, things kept happening, so I decided to stay clean and see where that got me.
For sure it was a bit disappointing for me and the team to miss out on a point by just one position, but going into the weekend if someone had offered me P11 on my debut I would have signed right there!
Overall there are a lot of positives, many things learned, and if I had the chance to do it all again I know where I can improve. Luckily for me, I don’t have long to wait until I get the chance to do just that.
Get free exclusive newsletter updates, behind the scenes videos, images and loads more!