Dino Zamparelli's GP3 Diary - Silverstone
Our GP3 columnist reflects on what could have been at his rome race and bemoans 5am alarm clocks.
By Dino Zamparelli. Last Updated: 17/09/13 1:30pm
The British Grand Prix is the special one for all seven of us Brits on the GP3 grid. It's the one we were all waiting for. There is nothing better than doing well in front of your home crowd.
Silverstone is especially good as there are lots of fans over the course of the weekend, all wanting a thrilling show. Even on Thursday and Friday, we saw lots of dedicated racing fans eagerly waiting for some action.
For the first time as well, it meant that, as a British driver based in England, I could actually drive to the race circuit which was only a couple of hours from my base in Bristol. Something that can never be underestimated...travelling for races is actually quite a bore. When you have to book and organise hotels, car hire, flights and all the rest of it (and yes I do it all myself); it can make a nice change to just jump in the car and go!
The track walk was up first on Thursday; a chance to get to know the circuit once more before the only Practice session on Friday. I love Silverstone. It's has a great mixture of corners - some very fast and flowing, and some slightly slower corners where you still have to be committed. It's a circuit where you have to be fully committed and if you're just slightly off the correct line, it can cost you a lot of time.
Friday went well - it was slightly damp for the first part, but it was soon onto slick tyres and a chance to familiarise with the circuit before qualifying on Saturday. I ended up eighth quickest in practice, but knew I had plenty more left in the tank for quali, so I was pleased.
Qualifying was early in the morning on Saturday. It was an early start from the hotel. Stories of drivers from years gone by nearly missing their session on track due to the large amount of Silverstone traffic going in, made us a bit uneasy, so we made sure we got to the circuit in plenty of time.
This meant that the alarm was set for 5am...which is pretty horrible, especially seeing as we had a late Free Practice session on Friday and got back to the hotel at 9pm. Nonetheless, I was feeling good. I downed a strong coffee with breakfast, and was ready to get going!
Qualifying for me unfortunately didn't work - I hit too much traffic around me and didn't get the lap out I wanted. I had initially posted some competitive times on an older set of tyres, but when it came to the crunch, it didn't work out. It was a shame as I felt like Practice and part one of quali went really well. All the prep was good and suddenly for it to not work out like that, was a bitter blow. I had some work to do starting in 16th!
The race on Saturday took place in sunny conditions in front of a big crowd. I was feeling good and excited. I made a decent start and held my position throughout the first lap. The racing in the midfield is very fraught. It seems like no one actually cares if they crash in the midfield. Only the top ten get points and everyone outside the top eight is gunning for that eighth spot and the reverse grid pole.
So if you're ninth or below, you're in the midfield battle! I was right in the thick of it in 15th and having to stay out of trouble. You have to stay out of trouble whilst still going for it. It's a difficult balance. Indeed, we saw a spectacular crash on lap four when one of the drivers literally flew over the rear wing of another car and catapulted into the barriers. Thankfully he was OK, but the race was held under safety car conditions for several laps.
As a driver, it's difficult to know how to react when you see the safety car boards out, and you come round the corner to see lots of emergency vehicles surrounding a car that's upside down on a particularly high speed section of the track. I was hoping that he was OK as I drove by every lap, and it seemed like it was all fine.
Once the racing got underway again, it was a frantic last five laps to the line. I managed to make some good ground up, stayed out of trouble and finished in tenth place with a point to my name. It wasn't all what I wanted from the race, but there's only so much you can do from 16th place and with limited racing laps. It was a real shame actually because I had good pace in the car and in me, and I made some really nice moves to make my way through. With a few laps more, who knows...
Race two was another early start and once again, I was waking up to an alarm at 5am...absolute murder two days on the trot! I had the same coffee and breakfast before heading off to the track. GP3 were first on track and the seats in the crowd were actually filling up. The lights went out on the starting grid, I made a good start, got round into turn threeand that's effectively where I finished!!
I was up into ninth and someone was having a crash with someone else at the exit of Farm and one of them smashed into my rear tyres which broke my gearbox and suspension. Great! What a bad way to end the weekend. I walked back to the pits from The Loop and just wanted to go home after that!
Unfortunately there was no dream win in front of the British crowd for me and it really wasn't the weekend I was after. I collected one point, so it wasn't a complete disaster!!
But ultimately I think I could have been challenging for higher up - the car was fast, I was driving well with the car and I managed to make some good overtakes during the race. It could have been worse however; I could have had a tyre blow out!
There was a British winner in Jack Harvey in race one, who drove a strong race and seemed deserving of the victory, so congratulations to him.
We have now only a few days to recover from those 5am starts before heading off to Germany for rounds seven and eight of the GP3 Championship. The Nurburgring is a great track and I'm looking forward to the challenge. I feel like I'm getting closer to the top, so am looking forward to hopefully showing that this weekend and getting all of those pieces of the puzzle to fit correctly!
Follow Dino on Twitter: @DinoZamparelli