Davide Valsecchi can officially be scratched from any list of outsiders for the remaining F1 2013 vacancies, having been listed by Lotus as its official reserve.
The reigning GP2 Series champion had, naturally, set his sights on graduating to the top flight via a fully-fledged race seat, but recently admitted that his best chance of securing an F1 foothold lay with Lotus and playing a back-up role to the established pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean [ see separate story
Valsecchi was confirmed among a typically deep back-up squad as Lotus unveiled its new E21 to the public, but was the nominated 'number three' ahead of Nicolas Prost and the team's Monza 2012 stand-in Jerome d'Ambrosio having impressed in the end-of-season 'young driver' test at Yas Marina last November.
“I'm really happy, of course, that the team want me to be with them, and I'm excited about the future,” the 26-year old admitted, “I hope that this is a really good start to a career in F1.
“What is important for me is to show that I'm the driver to bet on, and that you can count on me. I want to be consistent, so that every time I'm involved with something I am professional, every time I drive I'm extremely fast, and every time I race, I want to fight for something important and without making any mistakes.”
Racing in 2013 is unlikely, despite the precedent set by d'Ambrosio's appearance in place of the suspended Grosjean last September, but Valsecchi says he is determined to show that he is worthy of consideration in future, having fallen short of raising the sponsorship demanded by those teams still looking for drivers.
“Every day I will do the very best job that I can to give Lotus the same passion and commitment that I showed last year,” he said, reflecting on his successful 2012 campaign, “My last year in GP2 was something I really focused on and, in the end, I succeeded. Now, in F1, my target will be a little different, but my focus to do the very best is still the same.
“I very much hope, step by step, to get into F1 as a race driver and being here as third driver is as near as you can get. It's a great opportunity - if I do the best job I can this year, then it will open up my chances for the future and then we'll see if I'm good enough.”
With only limited F1 testing experience under his belt, Valsecchi will be hoping that he is afforded the chance to run in both pre-season testing and some Friday practice sessions during 2013.
“The young drivers test in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year was unbelievable,” he admitted, “I've spent some time in GP2, but the step to F1 is very different. Before the test, I had not really spent much time in an F1 car and to get the opportunity to have a full day's testing was an incredible experience - I knew that I was in a position to do well as I was about to drive a car that, just two or three days earlier, Kimi had won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in!”
Valsecchi's appointment casts some doubt on d'Ambrosio's role going forward, but the Belgian – who had also hoped to be included in consideration for the remaining seats at Force India, Marussia and Caterham – insists that he remains focused on doing his best for the Enstone equipe
“Consistency is a huge plus for any F1 team, so I'm happy that I am in a position to be able to contribute to the team's progression,” he claimed, “Kimi and Romain are both fantastic drivers and I've enjoyed working with them in 2012, so I'm really looking forward to this coming season.
“The team really moved forwards last year, and I'm proud that I was able to play a part in that. Now, as we continue to aim higher, I'm happy to keep up my role as reserve driver, and stay with a team that has a real chance of doing well in the 2013 season.
“Of course, any racing driver wants to spend as much time in an F1 car as possible, although the circumstances are not always ideal. Because we don't test anymore, it's very hard to be able to just step into a car and be race-ready, but I felt very comfortable and settled in very quickly. I think it's testament to the time that I've spent with the team, and the relationship we have that we did so well under difficult circumstances.
“My aim will be to keep focused and be prepared! Of course, my ultimate aim is always to gain a race seat, however I know that, by doing the best job I can here and proving myself valuable to the team, I'm in a very good position should an opportunity arise.”
The third member of the back-up team first drove for Lotus under its previous guise as Renault in 2010, and has subsequently been used by Enstone for test sessions, demonstrations, straight-line tests and simulator work, culminating in a place in the Abu Dhabi young drivers test alongside Valsecchi last November.
“It's really an honour to be working with the team as it means that I've done a good job so far, and last year in particular,” Prost reasoned, “I see it as a great accomplishment and my aim is to continue working well with the team, hopefully seeing this as the start of a long story.
“I would describe Enstone as being a big family. When people talk about F1, it's always that it is full of sharks but, in this team, everyone I meet is so nice. The people are friendly – they want to win, they want to work and there is a very good atmosphere - I think that's one of the biggest strengths of the team.”