2 July 2009
Alexander Sims: Promising pace, learning pains – and podium joy!
In his third exclusive column for Crash.net, Mücke Motorsport F3 Euroseries rookie Alexander Sims reflects on trials and tribulations at the Eurospeedway Lausitz, his maiden appearance in the prestigious F3 Masters at Zandvoort, testing at Magny-Cours and his breakthrough podium with the runner-up position at the Norisring – as he bids to go one spot higher still next time out on his Zandvoort return...
My second race weekend in the F3 Euroseries F3 at the Lausitzring Eurospeedway was one that I came away from realising what could have been had a couple of things gone my way. I am not making excuses; I made mistakes and paid heavily for them.
I will run through the weekend and tell you as much as I can about the events and how they unfolded. On Thursday I got up at 5:30am to leave for Heathrow. It's always difficult managing the flight on the day before to not be too early so that you're tired, but also so that you get to the track in reasonable time to be organised and prepared for the weekend. After all the travelling I got to the track at five in the afternoon, so having travelled for almost twelve hours I was ready to get into the main part of the race weekend.
We did our usual track walk and discussed all the corners and different options with lines around the track; then we went back to the race truck and went through the various bit of information needed for the weekend. Then I just relaxed for half an hour or so whilst eating supper and actually watched part of a film on my portable DVD player! That evening we got back to the hotel around 9:30, so I had a quick shower and went straight to bed.
Practice on Friday was from 10:30am-12pm and 3-4pm. In the first session it was slightly damp but drying, and after ten minutes we were all on slicks. I got into my rhythm quickly and started to improve my driving bit-by-bit. We did a few stints of eight laps and then changed the car a little to try some things that needed improving. We got the car feeling really good, and at the end we put new tyres on and finished the session fifth overall. During my new tyre run I had a lot of laps where I caught other cars which affected my lap time, but eventually I managed my situation well enough to find one clear lap. By this stage I had missed the peak of the tyres, but they were still reasonable.
We then went through the standard procedure of analysing the data and working out how we could improve both the car and myself. Having worked out how to move forward, I had some lunch and then went to the drivers' briefing. The second session of the day was an improvement again, which was good to see. We had a similar plan, and after doing a couple of stints to try out a couple of different options with the set-up we settled with what we thought was best. Then we put a set of new tyres on again. This time I managed my space better and had a few clear laps in a row. We finished the session second and less than a tenth behind the fastest. I was very pleased with our pace – with it being my first season I feel that it is very good to be so fast. Having the speed is by far the most important thing as with that, the results will come with time.
On Saturday we qualified at 8am again. We will qualify at that time at every race this year. It is inevitable as we are a support race to the DTM, so I can't complain. Qualifying was damp and everyone was on wets. I was going well and in fifth, but the track was starting to dry. With only ten minutes left I felt that the best time would come at the end by saving my tyres so they were in the best possible condition to push hard when the track was driest. By pushing hard all the way I felt the tyres would overheat and lose performance, and so my best possible lap time would be unreachable.
I therefore held back, but unfortunately that decision was the wrong one on that occasion, because within two laps the rain had started again! In two laps I went from fifth to eleventh, and with the rain falling I knew if I wanted to have any chance of salvaging a time I had to push straight away. I did my best first sector, but by the end of the lap the rain had fallen enough to wet the surface of the track and so I simply couldn't lap as fast as I would have done a lap earlier. I then did not improve my overall lap time, and eleventh was where I would stay for the remainder of the session.
I was gutted to have made the wrong call on managing my tyres. To have the raw pace that we did, it was difficult to take eleventh after qualifying. I knew I should have been far higher had I made a different decision. That is racing, though, and I continue to learn from my mistakes and try to improve my overall game. Afterwards I looked through the data as always, and on my fastest lap I was as quick as one of my team mates and faster than the other at the same point in the session. I took the positives from qualifying and talked with Michi, my engineer, about how I could have done a better job. I picked myself up and turned my focus to the first race, which was just a couple of hours later.
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