by Russell Atkins
Entering his third season in what is arguably the world's most hotly-contested tin-top series, Jamie Green has made it clear he will not be satisfied with anything less than victory in 2007.
The 24-year-old finished sixth at the wheel of a year-old car in his maiden campaign in the championship back in 2005, and so impressed his Mercedes bosses they promoted him to the crack AMG line-up for the following year. Despite a string of pole positions, three podium finishes and outpacing the likes of Mika Hakkinen, Bernd Schneider and Tom Kristensen in qualifying, however, the Leicestershire ace could only improve by one position in the drivers' standings, something he is desperately keen to put to rights over the forthcoming eight months.
“I'm really optimistic for this year,” he enthused to Crash.net
. “Last year had a lot of positives apart obviously from not managing to get a race win, but overall it was a really good year for me. I think 2007 could and should be even better.
“I learned last year you get no points on Saturdays. I finished fifth in the championship and that's all that really counts – the championship – not how many pole positions you set. This year I definitely need to work on my race performances, which is mainly the starts. They are my weak points, and if I can conquer that I think I will then have a very good chance of winning the championship.”
It is a positive outlook, but not one without foundation. Green came within a scant five seconds of triumphing on no fewer than three occasions in 2006, and only a late-race error deprived him of what would have been a famously popular victory in front of his partisan home supporters at Brands Hatch in July. Just once failing to qualify inside the front two rows of the grid, his outright speed and potential were clear for all to see.
“It does give you a bit of a lift to know your ultimate pace is as good as or better than anybody else's,” he acknowledged, “especially against someone like Mika who has won the Formula One World Championship twice. It was quite surprising to be quicker than him – it's a bit of a strange situation for a young driver to be in, but at the same time a nice situation.
“Brands Hatch is unfinished business for me because I really should have won there last year, and to win in front of your home crowd would be a really special day. That's what I would like to do, so I'm especially looking forward to going back there.”
Looking ahead to the task in-hand, the 2004 F3 Euroseries champion believes it will once again be a tightly-fought campaign and is taking nothing for granted, especially given the calibre of the opposition he will be up against. He does, however, expect Mercedes to retain the upper hand it by-and-large displayed over Audi in 2006.
“I think overall we had a slightly better package last year than Audi did,” he stated. “Even on the occasions when we had more weight in the car I was still able to qualify on pole position. We had a strong package and hopefully this year we can have a similar situation.