Two British F3 racers enjoyed strong showings on their first acquaintance with the more powerful GP2 class at Paul Ricard this week, while another is hoping for a second shot after finding his test a frustrating exercise.
F3 Euroseries frontrunner Sam Bird showed striking maturity and exceptional speed on his first outing in one of DAMS' cars, the 21-year old setting the fifth-quickest time of the opening half-day session, before then going fourth-quickest on the second morning.
"The two days I spent with DAMS were fantastic," Bird said, "The whole team was very supportive and extremely professional and, with their help, I was able to get on the pace quite quickly.
"I gelled very quickly with my engineer and mechanics and felt comfortable in my surroundings immediately. The GP2 car is great to drive, much faster than the F3 car I've been driving all year and quite demanding physically. As for Paul Ricard... wow, it's just an awesome facility. It was my first time there and I thoroughly enjoyed it."
DAMS team manager Eric Boullier was equally enthusiastic
"We tested Sam for the first time and he made a big impression on us as he showed both speed and consistency," the Frenchman noted, "What's more, he established an excellent relationship with the team right from the start.”
Will Bratt, meanwhile, produced a performance of similar note on his GP2 debut, the 20-year old Spanish F3 runner lapping within nine-tenths of the outright pace with DPR as he completed around 100 laps on a single-day outing.
“It was a very cool experience running in the GP2 car, I really enjoyed it and I think we did a pretty good job," Bratt said after out-pacing the likes of former F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan, Spanish F3 rival Christian Ebbesvik and DPR regular Michael Herck amongst others, "Considering it was my first time on track at Paul Ricard and my debut in a GP2 car, I'm very happy with the times we achieved."
The Oxford University undergraduate was expecting a tough work-out behind the wheel of the GP2 car, but felt that he got on top of it by the end of the day.
“GP2 is much more physical than F3," he confirmed, "There's obviously much more power, which means harder braking – you have to dominate the car to get the most out of it.”