GP3 - Conor Daly Pre-Season Preview
London, Apr. 19, 2012: As drivers say every year, it was a long off season! Once racing was finished for 2011 we began working on putting a program with what is regarded as the best team in GP3, Lotus GP, formerly ART Grand Prix. The negotiations were long and intricate as usual when trying to put together a race program. My Dad was heavily involved with the intense negotiations whereas I tried to stay focused on keeping my long time sponsors and finding new partnerships. It is quite funny how things turn out because originally my deal was supposed to be done in December but with unforeseen delays, it wasn’t announced until the beginning of March, 2012! It was definitely worth the wait though as much as I wanted it all to be done as soon as possible, we took the time to make sure every detail was worked out properly and I would be well positioned for the upcoming season.
We have had six pre-season test days so far, two at Estoril and two at Barcelona and two at Silverstone in England. It has been very interesting to get used to how a French team works. They have had such a successful history in anything they compete in and it is so cool to be a part of the team.The first thing I’ve really had to get used to is all the French speaking! I took two and a half years of French in high school and it’s slowly coming back to me as I listen to my engineer and mechanics talk. The whole team speaks French to each other so I kind of just go with the flow and pay close attention to hand signals and words I might recognize or remember. However, when it comes to my engineer communicating with me, we are able to understand each other in English and we are really beginning to work well together. I think since I’ve got a pretty strong American accent, the mechanics pick up on more English every time I see them!
Another thing I have to get used to is how the team utilizes data and how they try and get the driver to make sure he is getting the best out of the car and track at the same time. If I come into the pits and we look at the data and see a difference in my driving compared to a quicker teammate or just other data the team has, they focus on getting me to correct what I’m doing or just work on improving a certain area that I need to improve on before moving on to fine tuning the balance of the car. I worked on this a lot last season as well because I really had to change my driving style to suit GP3 but the way ART analyzes what the driver does is just a little bit different. It’s easy to listen to what the guys have to say though because they’ve now won two GP3 championships in a row so they are definitely doing things right!
It’s incredible how important testing is because every single time I go on track I learn more about the way their car needs to be driven and how to best evaluate what I need to tell them to fine tune the balance. So far, over six days of testing we have evaluated a lot of different things for the entire season not just for race one coming up in Barcelona, May 12th – 13th. The team wanted to get through a lot of changes before actually trying to fine tune the base setup to how I drive. I feel as though last year I was trying to change my driving so much to suit the car that I’ve almost changed myself too much. This Lotus GP car set up seems to suit my normal driving style very well.
The main area I focused on last year was trying to understand the Pirelli tires and how to best use them in qualifying. Every time I run a new set of tires I learn more and find small bits of information that helps me for my next set. Ask anyone in GP3, they’ll tell you it’s ALL about the tires; they’re right!