The build-up to the 2013 GP2 Season is officially underway. With the first race of the season now just a little over three weeks away, all the teams had the opportunity to run for three days at the Circuit de Jerez in Spain this week.
For Carlin, it was the first time this year to check how their new driver line-up is coming together. With last year's drivers moving on - Max Chilton to F1, and Rio Haryanto to the Barwa Addax Team - Carlin needed to find drivers with the potential to be at last as good and ended up selecting Felipe Nasr and Jolyon Palmer.
Nasr is no stranger to the Carlin team, having won the British F3 championship with them in 2011. However, for his début year in GP2 the 20-year-old Brazilian went racing with DAMS and caused a stir with several eye-catching race performances alongside his team mate Davide Valsecchi, who himself went on to win the 2012 GP2 championship.
"I'm feeling very positive to get back into the car and it's been a good feeling over the whole three days," said Nasr after his first outing of the year for his new team in 2013. "I'm just happy to be back in the GP2 car; I think both of the Carlin cars have got real potential this season, it's been a very encouraging first test."
The team used the track time in Jerez to adjust to the new 2013-specification Pirelli compound tyres. A damp track on Thursday morning also provided everyone in GP2 with the chance to try out the intermediate equivalents and carry out a full program of varied activity.
"We've worked on qualifying and race set up, pit stops and race starts," said Nasr. "Most importantly we've done a lot of work understanding the new tyre compounds and I'm really pleased with the progress we've made."
Nasr's team mate for the forthcoming season will be Jolyon Palmer, who now has two seasons in GP2 under his belt having joined the series in 2011 with Arden and then spending a year with iSport in 2012. Despite being afflicted with a car that suffered a string of technical issues in the first races of the year, Palmer emerged as the winner of the Monaco sprint race mid-season and will be hoping for more consistency at that level in 2013 with Carlin.
"I'm pretty happy overall; the test started well with some good pace and we've worked through a very comprehensive programme, including some race starts which even in the wet I feel more confident about now," he said. "Pace-wise we're definitely in the mix and we're extremely competitive over a long run.
"There's still a lot to learn about the tyres," he added. "They seem to be an improvement on last year, I think they're probably more durable and there's a more noticeable peak in grip."
Palmer and the team will get one more opportunity to get to grips with the new Pirellis at the second three day test next week at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, before the start of the 2013 season in Malaysia in a little over three weeks time.
"I think all the teams have found the new tyres to be quite different to last year and we've spent quite a bit of time getting a handle on that," said team principal Trevor Carlin.
But overall, he was also happy with the progress that the squad had made at Jerez.
"Working together as a new team for the first time with Felipe and Jolyon I think it's been a very successful test that we can build on next week in Barcelona," Carlin said. "It's been a very successful three days in terms of the hefty test programme that we've got through."See full Tuesday test times
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