Calado only sees benefits in Force India role
4 September 2013
James Calado insists that taking on the extra load of a reserve driver role with the Sahara Force India team can only help in his push towards the 2013 GP2 Series title.
Vijay Mallya confirmed that his team had signed the Briton in the run-up to this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Monza, with Calado slated for take part in Friday morning's free practice session before leaping straight into his ART GP2 car for the corresponding session in that series.
“We worked with him during the Silverstone test and he impressed everyone with his speed and consistency,” Mallya commented, “We've always tried to support young drivers and this is a great opportunity for James to gain some valuable experience of driving during F1 race events.”
Calado admits that his dream scenario would be to land an F1 ride next year – and the Force India line-up is far from settled – but concedes that he cannot allow himself to be distracted from the job at hand.
"I'm going to be extremely busy, especially this weekend, but, at the end of the day, I only see it as a positive,” the 24-year old told Sky Sports F1, “These days, you need as much time in any car as possible and I think, if you're good enough, you're able to adapt quick enough.
"You've just got to realise that the F1 [car] is a good ten seconds faster and reset your mind going back to the GP2 - and then almost visualise what a lap in GP2 is like. I'm sure that, within two or three laps, it'll be no problem and I'll be straight back on the pace again.
"Obviously, my work load is a lot higher now than it has been since the start of the season. It's not just practice sessions and things like that: there's a lot of simulator work; a lot of stuff with the team, doing pretty much everything the race drivers do.
"It's going to be hard, but I'm ready for the challenge - mentally and physically. It's my only chance, probably, to show what I can do and hopefully be in line for a race seat in 2014.
"Obviously, I would love to be a race driver in F1, that is the ultimate ambition and I'll work as hard as I can to get to that point, but it's hard. I think I've just got to concentrate on this year, do a really, really good job and see what happens."
With reigning GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi on the sidelines in a Lotus reserve role, Calado accepts that, even if he wins the title, graduation to the top flight is not guaranteed – 'it's very political and money-oriented, [and] you've got to be almost exceptional to do it on talent alone,' he notes – but he's determined to put himself in the frame, even if he has some catching up to do in the remaining three double-headers.
“If ART give me the tools to do the job, I will win the championship - no doubt about it,” he asserted, “I feel like I'm doing everything right at the moment, I'm on top form with my starts and everything is just really, really good.
"I just need the car to be able to complete the job and, if they can supply that, I stand every chance of winning the championship. The likes of [early season pacesetter Stefano] Coletti are not so fast at the moment and I just need to be able to take advantage of that and get myself back up to the front."
The topsy-turvy nature of this season's GP2 Series – where Coletti scored hard and fast at the start but not in the last five double-headers – sees Calado eating into the deficit separating himself from top spot having finally claimed his first victory on 2013 at Spa.
"It's been tough,” he conceded, “We've been struggling a lot, trying to get this car to live with the new tyres at the start of the year. We haven't really found a good balance or direction to build on.
"I think Spa showed some progress. We've been on the phone to my engineers and working hard to suss out a good direction and set-up for this race in Monza. I hope it works because we've got a really good chance of winning the championship. I'm not giving up."