Virgin Racing F1 2011 rookie Jérôme d'Ambrosio admits he is 'a lucky guy' heading into his maiden campaign of top flight competition this year, for whilst the team might not be a front-runner in the sport, he is adamant that there is nowhere else he would rather be.
Having been parachuted into Sir Richard Branson's outfit as its reserve driver for four of the final five grands prix of F1 2010 in Singapore, Japan, Korea and Brazil, and off the back of his form in the Friday practice sessions there, GP2 Series graduate d'Ambrosio was picked to replace Lucas Di Grassi alongside Timo Glock in the squad's 2011 line-up.
His debut in Singapore might have been something of a baptism of fire as he headed out on-track in the car for the first time in the teeming rain and under the glare of the city-circuit's spotlights, but the Belgian reveals that those four initial outings were pivotal to what has ensued.
“They helped a lot,” he told Crash.net
. “To be fair, I wasn't confident after my first lap in Singapore; I said, 'okay, I know what I need to do, I know what I can't do', but I just went for it and at the end of the session I pushed and it went well. I think the Friday sessions did a lot of good, and I was chosen for my position today because of my performance in them – the selection was based on that, so obviously it helped a lot.”
Affirming that he has already settled into his new surroundings very well, when it was put to him that the Virgin environment could be a beneficial one for an F1 newcomer, the 26-year-old was quick to sing the team's praises.
“I think [it's good] not only for an F1 rookie,” d'Ambrosio underlined. “Virgin of course was a new team last year and there are a lot of things to be done, but it's a team that has a great will to succeed – everyone has that will in the team, from the first mechanic to Graeme [Lowdon – CEO], John [Booth – team principal] and the partners. It's something I'm sure we can achieve, because everyone wants the same thing. It's not only good for a rookie; I think it's a great position to be in for many different reasons. I'm a lucky guy.
“I went to Singapore having never really been properly involved in an F1 team before – last year I had some introduction to it, but properly working with the engineers and everything, I was new to that. After two races, Virgin felt like a family. You have computers, you have a racing car, you have an engine – it's all very technical – but in the end you also have the human aspect. That is very important, and Virgin feels like a big family. Everyone is working in the same direction with the same goal, and that's great.
“In one way, this is a fantastic achievement for me, because this has always been my dream, and on the other side it's a fantastic opportunity because everything begins now.”