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Carlin learns from first year highs and lows
24 September 2011
The 2011 GP2 and GP2 Asia Series marked the first year for the Carlin team in the F1 feeder series - and now it's over it has left team owner Trevor Carlin with much to think about over the winter as he plots the team's course next season.
"The whole team and I are looking forward to the 2012 season and we're looking forward to bringing our car further up the grid in our second year of GP2," said Carlin. "We've taken a huge amount of information on board this year and learned a lot - so we're already very excited at the prospect of what we can achieve in 2012."
Carlin entered 2011 with high hopes of making an immediate impact in GP2, but the season has brought him down to earth with the realities of performing in such a high-level, high-profile championship.
"We had quite realistic aims before the start of the season," Carlin insisted. "But I think our early pace elevated our expectations and we ended up putting a bit more pressure on ourselves to do well."
The difficulty for any new team in a series is working out exactly what lessons to learn: what factors are down to things that the team can control, and what are down to sheer ill fortune that is out of their hands.
"There were some race weekends where pure bad luck ruined any chances of points and great finishes - sometimes this was completely beyond our control and of course every team has moments throughout the season like that," agreed Carlin. "Unfortunately we seemed to have more than our fair share and they seemed to strike when our drivers were heading towards a great finishing position. In some races we really didn't get the results we should have.
"If you're not quick it's quite clear why you're not getting top results," he added. "But when you have the pace in qualifying and don't turn that into points and podiums, that's when it gets frustrating."
The team's lead driver Max Chilton qualified in the top 12 seven times in the season, but his best race weekend was at Monaco when he finished seventh and six in the feature and sprint races respectively after qualifying on the front row. Chilton scored three of his (and the team's) four 2011 championship points that weekend, but otherwise there was meagre return for all that hard work they had put in all year.
Chilton proved to be a good, reliable choice for Carlin as their main driver, the team having already paired up with the 20-year-old for British Formula Three in 2009 that saw the Briton take his first win in the series in the last race that year at Brands Hatch.
"Max has been a big motivator in the team this year and has matured so much since we last ran him in 2009. You only have to look at his qualifying pace to see that he's a fast driver," said Carlin. Despite the bad luck that meant he didn't get the results he deserved, Carlin insisted: "He's handled it so well and we were proud to have him fighting for us."
Being able to rely on Chilton has been all the more important because the race seat of the other Carlin has been something of a revolving door all year. The team started with Mikhail Aleshin alongside Chilton in GP2 Asia and they had every expectation of continuing that relationship into the main season, but problems with one of the Russian's sponsors saw Aleshin drop out of pre-season testing before then being confirmed on a race-by-race basis for the rest of 2011.
The first race weekend in Turkey saw Aleshin injure himself in a crash in qualifying and he was subsequently ruled out of taking to the grid in either the feature or the sprint race. He returned for the Catalunya weekend but was then replaced by Oliver Turvey for Monaco, and then Alvaro Parente for Valencia, Silverstone and the Nurburgring. Aleshin did return for Hungary and Spa but Parente again displaced him for the season finale at Monza.
"Obviously it's not ideal to have to keep changing drivers," Carlin conceded. "We had Max throughout the year but his team mate changed a couple of times. It does make things a little tricky for the mechanics and engineers to have this lack of consistency but they did an excellent job coping well with the changes."
And indeed, Carlin can't praise his team highly enough when it comes to the heart and effort they've shown in their début season in GP2.
"We had to put together a brand new team for the 2011 season. This meant putting new people together and getting great working relationships in place quickly," he said. "I'm very proud of the job the mechanics and engineers have done this year, they've worked extremely hard to build up a strong team."
And having got those building blocks in place, Carlin is intent on now putting them to good use when it comes to mounting their 2012 campaign - and determined that Carlin will see a big step up for their sophomore year.
"We're already working on next year and coming up with ideas of how we can improve our performance," he said, the dream firmly in place.
Quotes courtesy of Carlin Media
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