Reigning British F3 champion Alvaro Parente completed a satisfactory first World Series by Renault test with Victory Engineering yesterday [Thursday], but admitted that he still had work to do to acclimatise to the new category.
The Team Portugal protege, who has spent the winter campaigning his country's car in the A1 Grand Prix series, finished the two-day test in eighth place after completing 61 laps at the technically demanding Barcelona F1 circuit. Helped into one of the remaining WS seats thanks to his connections with Carlin Motorsport, which will provide technical assistance to Victory this season, Parente took his time to get used to the unfamiliar surroundings, before beginning to work down to a competitive time.
"It wasn't easy, but I never expected it to be," he said, "Everything is new to me and it will naturally take a little time to settle in, understand the limits of the car and appreciate fully the performance parameters. Compared to what I have raced in previously, these cars have more downforce, stronger brakes and a very different tyre performance window.
"However, we achieved good mileage today and it went quite some way towards strengthening my understanding of the package. Overall, it was an excellent experience for me - and very valuable in terms of setting a benchmark to work from ahead of our next test in Le Mans."
Having tested a GP2 car over the winter, and then run in A1GP throughout its inaugural campaign, Parente had to rethink certain aspects of his driving style to cater for the WS Dallara, but admitted that the change would be necessary if he was to use the coming season as a stepping stone to bigger things.
"It means everything in terms of progression, experience and development," he said of his Victory deal, "I will, for example, have to adapt my driving style this season and understand better the performance of tyres, engines and brakes. Okay, so the engine is not as powerful as the ones I have raced in A1 Grand Prix and tested in GP2 but, at this level, you have to master an understanding for every aspect of the car and extract from this the optimum performance set-up. World Series by Renault is a logical progression in my quest to make it successfully into Formula One, so I want to make it work."
Despite his late arrival at the team, Parente impressed Victory team manager David Lowe with his performance in the Barcelona test.
"It was a very good test debut for Alvaro - his eighth fastest time today is impressive and lends itself very well to our high hopes for him this season," Lowe said, "Getting comfortable with the car, understanding its behavioural characteristic and accumulating mileage have been the key objectives at this first test, as these cars generate a lot more grip and downforce than what he has been used in the past and, combined with the layout of this particular circuit, the challenges posed to any new driver are considerable.
"Nonetheless, he has acquitted himself extremely well, especially when you consider the experienced drivers he is up against in this championship. It was a steep learning curve, but one that Alvaro, in particular, appears more than equipped to deal with."