Alex Lynn – GP2 Monaco review
Monaco has been a huge disappointment for me. We ended the weekend without any GP2 Series points, but as in the opening round in Bahrain there were very good underlying reasons why we couldn’t show the pace I know that the DAMS team and I were capable of.
I came to Monte Carlo on a high after my first GP2 win at Barcelona and then a very good test with the Williams Formula 1 team. Free practice on Thursday was my first time driving in the streets of Monaco, and to be honest it’s quite different to any other street circuit I’ve ever done. It’s very stop-start, and you don’t feel as on the limit for as much of the lap as you are at, say, Macau and Pau. But then again it’s Monaco, and that alone makes it so special, knowing that you’re driving around the same legendary place as you grew up watching your heroes driving when you were a kid.
Free practice was a learning exercise. I was only 19th in the times but I had a lot of traffic, so although that didn’t look good it was OK, because we worked out from the data that if I’d had a clear lap I’d have been very close to the top.
Then it all went wrong in qualifying on Friday morning. It was raining, which was a bit of a shame because I was looking forward to building on practice. But from the first two laps I felt very confident in the rain. It was my first time at Monaco and my first time in a GP2 car in the wet, so it was difficult, but I thought I was looking good. It was obvious that times were going to be quickest at the end, as the track was getting faster all the time. I set what stood as my best lap with three laps to go, and then there was a communication error with my engineer. I backed off for two laps to find a clear space, while everyone else was improving, and was greeted by the chequered flag. Everything being normal I should have been on the front two or three rows of the grid; instead I was 17th…
There was a lot of chaos at the start of the first race with a few stalled cars in front of me, and the start was delayed twice. At first I thought I’d gain a few places with those stalled cars being forced to start from the pit lane, but somehow they were allowed to start from their original places on the grid, which I found a bit odd.
I started on the supersoft tyres and our strategy was always to stop early to get onto the softs, giving ourselves the chance of getting lucky: if there was a safety car, we’d be quids in. But my out-lap wasn’t great because there was a crash in front of me and I lost loads of time. Then later in the race there was a virtual safety car instead of the more usual safety car, which gave an advantage to those who’d decided to stop later, as they could pit while the field was running around slowly and get out with hardly any loss of position. With a normal safety car it would have been ‘great, we’re looking good here!’, but it was just an example of a few times over the weekend when things didn’t go our way.
So I ended that race 13th, which means that was where I started the second race. There was a lot of rain in the air and from 13th on the grid that was what I needed really to spice things up. Unfortunately it never came. In the race my pace was OK but I was just stuck in the queue.
For most of the race I was stuck behind Jordan King, who in turn was trapped behind my team-mate Pierre Gasly. Pierre was struggling with damage picked up from contact at the beginning of the race, but he did a good job of holding on. And once you get into a rhythm on a street track that’s being dictated by someone else, it’s very hard to get out of that.
In the end Jordan went flying over the back of Pierre coming out of the tunnel and down to the chicane on the seafront. I could see that coming for a good few laps. Going through the tunnel I thought, ‘I know what’s going to happen’, and then it was, ‘OK, it’s happening’. He did look as though he was getting a bit frustrated, but I’m glad he was OK as it must have been a bit scary.
That meant I finished 11th, out of the points again. It was great to have so much support in Monaco from so many friends and also from Y.CO, my sponsor, and it’s just a shame we couldn’t turn out a result to reward them.
We’ve got four weeks now until the next round at the Red Bull Ring, and that’s a good thing. Everything’s happened so quickly lately, with Barcelona, the F1 test and then Monaco. Now we’ve got time to regroup, time to analyse what we’ve done the right and wrong way. There’s been a lot of potential, but we probably haven’t maximised it as much as we should have done. But first, it’s going to be great to chill out at my folks’ house for a couple of days after all that time on the road!
Alex Lynn – GP2 Monte Carlo preview
Some of you probably think I’m living a life of glamour at the moment – my first win in the GP2 Series last time out at Barcelona, quickly followed by my first test, at the same track, in a Williams-Mercedes Formula 1 car. The pattern would then usually be coming back down to earth, only now I’m in Monaco – the least down-to-earth place you can imagine! – for my next GP2 race weekend.
The truth is though that as soon as I left Barcelona last Wednesday after my F1 test it was down to work preparing with the DAMS team for Monaco. This will be an important weekend to continue scoring points and carry on my championship challenge, because at Barcelona we got it back on track really nicely.
I’ve been to Monaco a few times but I’ve never driven on the Monte Carlo track. Obviously it’s a circuit where everybody knows the layout, the bumps and key areas, because we’re all motor racing fans and we all love watching races from Monaco. But we still have to go through all the nuances to make sure everything works. I’ve approached it a lot like I did Macau in my Formula 3 days really, doing a lot of preparation work in the simulator. That all helps make sure that when you hit the track everything goes as smoothly as possible.
On any street circuit, you know that you’re going to be a little bit out of control for the first couple of laps of free practice, but doing all that preparation means that as many things as possible can be on autopilot, and it certainly lessens that element of stepping into the unknown.
I’ve always done well on street circuits in my F3 days. I was quick at Pau on my first visit and scored a British F3 podium, I won at the Norisring in European F3, and I was pole first time in Macau and won it second time. I don’t know what it is really; I just seem to enjoy them. The thing is, although there are certain similarities in the techniques for different street circuits and the transition to how you drive them in GP2 isn’t too much of a big deal, I’ll be in a much bigger and faster car now.
Monaco has a different structure to the weekend to the other GP2 races. For starters, everything happens one day earlier, so we start with free practice and qualifying on Thursday, and race on Friday and Saturday. Also, we’re split into two groups for qualifying, each of which only gets 15 minutes. But at the end of the day it won’t make much difference to my approach. I just want to go quickest and start from pole, which is so crucial at Monaco. The split groups will help because traffic is a nightmare in qualifying here, so hopefully that takes some of the doubt away.
I’m not sure yet whether mine will be the first group to qualify or the second. Being the first means you’re going out on the F1 rubber laid down from free practice, which everyone loves, whereas if you’re in the second group you can get good data from your team-mate’s group. In my case that’s Pierre Gasly and I’m sure that would help as he’ll definitely be quick – or, vice versa, my data could help him if my group goes first! We’ve also got a new sponsor on board this weekend, Y.CO, which is a yacht company I am very proud to be involved with.
Apart from Monaco being such an epic place, the other thing I’m really looking forward to is using the super-soft Pirelli tyres for the only time in a race weekend. We tried them in testing in Abu Dhabi and it’s a great tyre with loads of grip, which I really enjoy. You’ll only have one or two laps with them operating at their peak, which is a sensational feeling, and I love the pressure of having to deliver straight away in that kind of situation!
Alex Lynn – Formula 1 test Barcelona
May 13, 2015
After scoring my first GP2 Series race win at Barcelona I’ve had a pretty amazing three days. First of all the reaction from everybody about my GP2 success, and then my first test day in a Williams-Mercedes FW37 Formula 1 car at the same track on Wednesday.
It was really nice to have such positive feedback in the media. They like to make an eye-catching headline, and when I saw ‘Williams pinning hopes on Alex Lynn for F1 future’ on autosport.com it was brilliant, although I did have to try not to get too big-headed! It all means a lot to me, and I never expected the implications of winning at GP2 level, which shows that people set a lot of store by it.
The test was for two days and my team-mate Felipe Massa – how good does that sound, to call a multiple Grand Prix winner my team-mate? – was out in the car on Tuesday. From the outside, testing often doesn’t look that exciting, but it was important to me to see how he conducts himself at a test. If I want to be a Grand Prix driver, I need to learn from people like him, and he’s a great person to learn from. I spent all my time in the garage watching what was going on and soaking up everything – and avoiding getting sunburnt outside!
There’s so much more data in F1 than in the junior classes I’m used to, but I’d already done more data than I could ever imagine in the Williams simulator so it wasn’t too daunting, and actually it enabled me to be really familiar with everything that was going on. I’ve already tried to immerse myself in it as much as possible, so that gave me a good headstart.
Then on Wednesday it was my turn to drive. It was my second time in an F1 car, because I had run with Lotus in Abu Dhabi last November, but it’s always mindblowing how much power these power units have got. And this is cool, but I did my first 200mph today – it’s quite nerdy but I’m pretty chuffed! OK, I’m used to 160/170, so you might not think that going to 200 is that big a deal, but the thing with F1 is that you’re properly motoring on. It’s quite sobering to realise that with these engines you’re not maxing out at 200, instead there’s no sign that they’re ever going to stop accelerating – although the braking is just as powerful. It really is impressive.
We didn’t have a lot of laps planned in the morning, and the afternoon was always going to provide the bulk of our running. In the morning we concentrated mainly on aero work, trying to correlate the updates that Williams brought for Barcelona, and then trying things for the next F1 race in Monaco. Then in the afternoon it was nice to get some longer runs and get a feel for the tyre degradation and what the car could do. I got a couple of runs on soft tyres, which gave me a decent lap time, but we weren’t on qualifying fuel levels.
Because of this, it’s really difficult to know how well you’re doing. You genuinely don’t know and you have to rely on the engineers, who said it was really good. It’s not like junior racing, where you know that when you go out on new tyres and a few fumes of fuel that’s as good as it’s going to get. So, with the test programme I was given, I hope I gave a good account of myself, and I think I did as well as I could hope for.
Also, you may have seen from pictures that I managed to get my helmet painted in a Williams livery with Martini stripes. At the moment there’s nothing firm planned as far as actually being in the F1 car again, but I’m really hoping to get some more chances to use that helmet!
Alex Lynn – GP2 Barcelona review
Alex Lynn – GP2 Barcelona preview
The gap between getting home from my first GP2 race weekend in Bahrain and setting off for the second round at Barcelona was two and a half weeks, but as usual it feels like I haven’t stopped as far as preparing for the next battle is concerned.
The results in Bahrain were obviously very disappointing and I came away from there without a single point. It was nowhere near what I expected, especially as I was looking really good for a win on my GP2 debut in the early stages of the race. With the DAMS team I’ve done a lot of analysis and there are a lot of positives. The biggest is that there was a lot of pace, and that gives us great encouragement going into Barcelona. After looking at it really in-depth, we’ve learned a lot of lessons and we have to apply them as best we can.
You might say that, apart from Stoffel Vandoorne, pretty much all the other guys who were expected to be a major threat for the title also had a nightmare weekend. But I look on it as a shame, because it would have been a great opportunity to grab a march on the opposition, as we were in a good position to score a lot of points. But we’ve learned a hell of a lot, and with that we have to concentrate on putting a good weekend together.
I’ve been down to the DAMS base in France to make sure we’re top-notch for this weekend, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the Spanish Grand Prix support, exactly the same event where I got my first win on my GP3 debut last year and a flying start in the championship. I really like the track. It’s got a very nice flow and it’s very technical as well. I’ve always gone quite well there, whether it’s in testing or racing. So I’m really looking forward to kick-starting my season in style.
DAMS are pretty good there too. In the past two seasons they’ve locked out the front row, so they’re confident they’ve got a good package. I think I’m driving well, so I’ve just got to put it all together.
Of course, the biggest problem in Bahrain was tyre wear, which worsened to a massive extent on my car because of the damage I picked up on my front wing. Tyres are always an issue at Barcelona as well, but it’ll be nowhere near on the scale we saw in Bahrain. Anyway, nine times out of ten I’m always really good at looking after my tyres, so I’ve just got to apply that knack I’ve got and avoid breaking my wing again…
I’ve not only been to DAMS since Bahrain. I’ve also been doing quite a lot of work at the Williams Formula 1 team in preparation for my test in the F1 car next Wednesday, with a fair bit of time in the simulator. But that’s totally out of my mind to be honest. First of all, I need to do a good job in GP2 this weekend. Then, when that’s over, I’ll be really excited about driving one of the best cars in F1!”
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