GP3 Series returnee Mitch Gilbert admitted that there was still a long way to go before he could consider himself ready for the forthcoming season, despite topping the times during last week's test at Estoril.

The Australian posted the fastest time of the final session in Portugal, but was among those with previous experience of the category, having raced there sporadically last season, and is aware that, as well as other stalwarts, he will also face stiff opposition from the raft of newcomers graduating to the F1 support series this year.

"Everything slotted together really well and, while there's still a lot of work to do, we made a really good start to the season," Gilbert said of his first official run with the Carlin team, "It was nice to top the final session in Estoril, [but] I don't want to think about [the rest of the season] really. I just want to prepare well and see what happens. I think, if you put too much focus on what you think should happen, the moment it doesn't go exactly according to plan, you start to panic. I just focus on what happens day by day...."

Having raced Formula Renault and F3 before moving over to GP3 for five rounds with Trident in 2014, Gilbert is happy to be returning to F1 schedule this season.

"I think the biggest thing about GP3 is the exposure it gets as a junior championship, but also the discipline it teaches you," he acknowledged, "You don't get to do hundreds of laps - it's 30 minutes and then you deal with it. That's what separates those who win and those who don't. If you can deal with high pressure now, you'll deal with it in the future.

"I think, when you first roll out on track during first practice, those first 5-10 minutes make your weekend. If you're having problems then, it can be hard to come back from. That's why it's so important to be well prepared - both in terms of your mind-set and also in terms of the technical and strategic preparation. You haven't got much chance to bounce back from practice to qualifying."

Despite putting an emphasis on preparation, however, it transpires that Gilbert is not a huge fan of the simulators that have grown to be a vital part of the sport.

"Yes and no...," he conceded, "I spend quite a bit of time on them, but I think it can be too much at times as well. Just getting your brain into that level of competitiveness that simulators help to recreate can be a good thing - focusing on that extra tenth of a second or whatever - but I don't feel that simulators make me into a better driver as such."



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