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Daly shines in debut with Hilmer Motorsport
28 March 2013
Having turned out for GP2 Series new team Hilmer Motorsport last weekend at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, Conor Daly will be returning to his 'day job' in GP3 pre-season testing at Silverstone with ART.
The question is whether the 21-year-old American - the son of Irish former F1 and Champ Car driver Derek Daly - will still be in the GP3 cockpit come the start of the season in Barcelona in May, or whether a more permanent role in GP2 is in the offing given his successful début performance.
Daly finished in 13th place in the Saturday sprint race in Malaysia, which he was then able to improve to a points finish in seventh place at the end of the Sunday sprint race - the first GP2 points for Hilmer as well as himself.
"The car had too much oversteer and I just didn't know how hard I could push the tyres with a heavy fuel load,' Daly explained. "I decided to sit at the end of the lead group to let things settle down a bit. When the fuel load lightened I started to push a little more."
Daly's day could have been even better, if he hadn't been caught out waved yellow flags in the Saturday feature race. He'd failed to spot them in time and got served with a pit lane drive-thru penalty for overtaking, one of a number of drivers to get caught out by the same offence in the middle of the 31-lap race.
"Without the drive through penalty in race 1 on Saturday, Conor would have finished [the feature race] eighth instead of 13th," commented team owner Franz Hilmer. "That would have put him on the reverse grid pole for Sunday," he pointed out.
"It looks as if he was fast enough to potentially win the race - we would have created a big story," added Hilmer, who went on to describe Daly's maiden performance with the team as "fantastisch."
So does that mean Hilmer is looking at confirming Daly in the race seat for a longer stay? The team was the last to confirm its driver line-up for Malaysia just days before the event got underway, and Daly and his weekend team mate Pal Varhaug were only signed up for the opening round of the 2013 GP2 Series, with Hilmer deferring a decision on its long-term line-up until after Sepang was behind them.
If he were offered a GP2 race seat, would Daly take it or would be prefer to stay in GP3 for another crack at that title in 2013? It was too soon for Daly to say, as he was still reeling from the lightning run of events of the last few days.
"I am so pumped right now - what a crazy five days for me," he said. "To think I was sitting in London last Tuesday night and twelve hours later I was standing on what felt like the surface of the sun it was so hot - just crazy.
"Hilmer has been fantastic to me and I'm so glad that it all went so well for them because I know it was a risk to take a rookie to Malaysia," he added. "I was a little sore all over afterwards - particularly the muscles in my hands - but it's all worth it."
Fortunately there's now four weeks between Malaysia and the second round of the 2013 GP2 Series championship, which will be held at Sakhir International Circuit in Bahrain on April 19-21, giving Daly and the team enough of an opportunity to sit down and discuss options.
Daly also had an opportunity to test an IZOD IndyCar Series car with AJ Foyt Racing in December, suggesting that the young second-generation racer is not likely to be short of options whatever he decides to do with the next step of his career.
Reports this week have even linked Daly to a possible second Foyt car at the Indianapolis 500. The team owner was quoted as saying "It could be an American" when asked who his preferred choice of driver would be. However, the Indy 500 is held on the same weekend as the GP2 and GP3 Series races at the prestigious Monaco round, making it a tough choice for Daly should the offer come his way.
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