It’s only a couple of days since we left Hockenheim after the last GP3 Series round, and now on Thursday I’m back on a plane again to Budapest for the next event at the Hungaroring with the Carlin team.
I didn’t win at Hockenheim but I scored big points again, which is so crucial in GP3, to extend my championship lead. While that track is somewhere I know really well, the Hungaroring is different. I haven’t raced there since 2011, when I did a Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup round – it was my first car race ever outside the UK.
It’s definitely one of the hardest tracks we go to. I hinted before Hockenheim that there’s not a lot to that circuit, but the Hungaroring is the complete opposite. A fast driver can make a big difference in lap time. It’s all about the second sector, which is very long and where there’s a huge amount of corners – you’re constantly flowing from one to the next. As far as driving it is concerned, it’s a real mix because a fast lap around there has to be a bit ragged, but at the same time you have to keep it composed – that’s why it’s so difficult.
You have to get that mixture absolutely right as qualifying is more important here than pretty much anywhere else, because it’s so hard to overtake. We’ve got to do everything we can to get on pole, and it will also be critical to set the car up for the weekend.
The reason for that is we won’t get as much time to set the car up in free practice. We usually carry over a set of tyres from the previous weekend to use in free practice. We used the soft compound at Hockenheim and it’s the same again at the Hungaroring, and because of the nature of the circuit and the heat they’ll only be good for two laps before they’re ruined. So we’ll go out for one run, sit in the pits for half an hour and then do another. If the car feels bad, it’ll be difficult to know if it’s the set-up or just the tyres!
Tyre degradation is probably going to be the hardest of the season, which will really affect the races. Actually, it’s definitely the hardest of the season! The Tarmac there is really abrasive too, and the heat plays its part not only regarding the tyres, but the drivers. The Hungaroring is an extremely physical track and it’s very bumpy too, so I’m glad I’ve done my training recently… Having said that, I’m really looking forward to the challenge and it’ll be great to get a good result heading into the mid-season break – we’ve got a month before the following round at Spa.
I’ve had a really good start to the season – two poles, two wins and three more podiums. We’re halfway through a typical GP3 season and a friend of mine worked out that I’ve already got far more than half the points that any of the champions scored – when they include Valtteri Bottas, Daniil Kvyat, Esteban Gutierrez and Mitch Evans you’ve got to be happy with that! But the thing is, everybody’s been so consistent this year and many of my main rivals have scored a lot too.
As long as me and the Carlin guys keep on going in the way we are we should be OK. It’s been fantastic so far, and scoring as heavily as we could early in the season was our mindset from the start. That’s paid off, because we’re in control of our destiny now.