In Davide Valsecchi's first exclusive column on Crash.net for 2013, the Lotus F1 Team third driver and 2012 GP2 Series champion looks ahead to the start of the new F1 season and talks about his role with the highly successful Enstone-based outfit, as well as what it is like working with the squad's race drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean...
I am really happy to be working with Lotus F1 Team this season and it should allow me to make another step up the ladder to the pinnacle of the sport. I want to improve as a driver this year - that is my target - and follow really closely the work of the team during each F1 race weekend. I want to learn more about myself as a driver and to be ready for 2014 and hopefully a chance to race.
I am looking at this year in a very positive way, even though I am not racing. To be one hundred per cent honest, my aim after victory in the GP2 Series in 2012 was to find a race seat in F1. But it is extremely complicated to find a place in a competitive team and, considering I had a great proposal to act as third driver at Lotus F1 Team on the table, I chose almost immediately to go with it. I really believe it will give me a chance to develop and progress.
I think I am in the best place possible and will try working in a good way to try to improve myself and have a huge future here. Lotus is the fourth best team in the world at the moment - let's not forget that - and has an ex-world champion in Kimi, who finished third in the drivers' championship in 2012. We are talking about a top team and it is a pleasure and real honour to be part of that.
I will be involved in all the driver briefings during the events, beginning this weekend in Australia, and I want to make the most of that opportunity. But it is the mentality and respect of a F1 car and a F1 team that is important too. I am learning from Kimi and Romain, but also all the team.
During the season, I will do a programme of simulations that the team has requested I do. I also really hope to have some testing days – and some are already scheduled – just to get some mileage on my back and have some experience with an F1 car. I am pushing a lot for that. That will, for sure, help in the future.
I've already had one unexpected chance to test the Lotus E21, when Kimi had to miss the penultimate day of testing in Barcelona due to illness. I felt sorry for him but, for me, it was a fantastic surprise.
I didn't get to do so many laps but it was still good - and good to show I am ready to help out. I am always ready for my team.
It was just an incredible experience to drive the car. The E21 is extremely fast from my point of view. But it is not easy to judge how fast it is in comparison to the rest of the grid. However it was fast enough to immediately put me in the group and on the pace.