Hockenheim Race 1&2
We left Thursday morning to arrive in the early afternoon, because we had a free trial session in the late afternoon. Once the 4 hour road trip finished, and a bit of time spent in the paddock, I sat in the BMW for my test session. I had already done two tests on the track this season, and this time I noticed that to prevent us from running over the curb on the first turn, the organization had placed a kind of bump on the other side, outside the main curve, so if you touched it, we would fly off. So, I was very careful not to touch it, but with the grip that I had, I was going really fast and I had plenty of room so I didn’t touch it, this bump didn’t bother me, it was there for no reason.
Once the test session ended, I had a fairly good time with the tires I had, they were not new, but not too worn out either.
Because of the event, “Jim Clark Revival” we had a very precise timing and exceptionally, we had to do the qualifying on Friday and the races on Saturday and Sunday.
So, the first qualifying was at 8h30 in the morning and the track was really cool, the ideal time for engines, still relatively cool. I managed to make my qualifying laps without being bothered by other drivers; I had no one in front or behind so I could really do my best. I had a really fast time, and thanks to it, I managed to get the pole position. The first pole position of my career. I was really happy.
The second qualifying took place at 17h30, at the very end of the day because of all the other categories. I spent my day wandering around the paddock and saw the Boss GP, which includes all the F1 cars of the past years until about 2003, there was even the Arrows F1, so I really enjoyed the views and especially the sound.
For the second qualifying, the track was more slippery than in the morning, because of different tires on the other cars and the track temperature had risen. This time in my last lap and the fastest one, I was blocked in the last portion of the circuit, in the last two corners, I was in the slipstream of the car ahead, so I under-steered and had to slow down. I lost a tenth and I missed the pole for 1 tenth of a second. But, second place is not bad either.
For this first weekend I was on the first line for the two races.
First race of the season, pole position, stressing! The first race took place at 13:30, much later than the first qualifying. During the formation lap, I saw that there were spots of oil on the track because of the historic cars which had broken a few engines. There was oil going into the first corner, the Mercedes Arena and in the two last corners. At the time of my start it was still very strange to wait a long time for everyone to get on the grid and for the starter to switch on the green lights. I had a lot of wheel-spin at the start and I ended up 4th in the first lap. This time the track was very slippery, and I can say that the bump that was on the first corner was effective because in the second lap, the driver in front of me flew over the bump and almost went in tires, but managed to get back on track and cut my line as well, so I had to break otherwise we would have crashed and I knew he had done it on purpose. I did not appreciate it at all. Then, as the laps went on, I had passed the 4th driver and I was third. I spent the whole race behind the 2nd driver putting pressure on him, there was always less of 5 tenths between us.
On the last lap, in turn two, he spun out, as I had no choice but to get behind him as he continued to spin. His back wheel came at about 15cm from mine. I even went off the track behind him because of the under-steer I had then, but I had enough distance between myself and my opponents so that I wouldn’t be caught up. I had made quite a gap.
I was convinced that I had crossed the line in second position, but it was only in the bus to take us back to the podium that they told me that I was first. Apparently, the first one crashed into the first corner after taking off on the bump and had hit the tire wall at about 195kmh. Several other drivers had flown off that bump too, and one almost flipped over, apparently his car was vertical to the track and the he hit the tire wall and was then followed by another driver a lap later.
When I arrived at the podium, it was just a few minutes that I knew I was first, and leaving the bus, my team came to congratulate me before I went up to the podium. Once there, we waited a little while, that’s where we were interviewed by journalists and pictures taken and so on. Then once the speaker arrived, we could begin the ceremony.
It was the first time that I could go on the top step of the podium, and heard the national anthem of the USA and received the laurel crown. I had waited for this moment for a very long time and it felt great to be there. I learnt later on that the US national anthem was not heard at Hockenheim for more than three years.
We made an agreement with the other drivers not to splash Champagne onto each other because tomorrow we still had a race and only one suit for 2 races. We sprayed the Champagne onto the crowd. Once that was done, I went down, the laurel crown around my neck, the trophy in one hand and the bottle of Champagne in the other. I offered what was left of the Champagne to the team who had deserved it as much as I. I also had an interview with television reporters and requests for autographs, so it was a very special moment for me. That evening, I was going to bed with something that I never had, and it was a really great feeling.
After the victory of the day before, we had to do it again. This time I started in second place, but, where I would start, about one meter behind there was a huge patch of oil, so when I came to my place after my warm up lap, to avoid the oil puddle, I had to place myself not quite in a straight line. I still had a lot of wheel-spin at the start allowing the third driver to over take me, and the fourth as well, just before the first corner. At the end of the first lap I was 5th. The driver in front of me, on the second lap, went on the bump and flew off but did not hit the tires and could get back on track, but with the lack of speed he had, I could pass him in turn two. Then I stayed for about 4 or 5 laps behind the third car which slowed me down a lot.
I was losing time behind but, I was not close enough in the straight away to take his slip-stream. In the two last corners I always got his slip-stream and I could not get too close because then I under-steered a lot. Then in the 4th or 5th lap, he missed his braking at the Sachs Curve, and I could get closer, now I was about three feet from him, so a big risk to catch his slip-steam in the corner. I gave him a little space before the last corner because I knew he had seen me getting closer so he would try to go faster and that would automatically make him under-steer which would allow me to go right behind him for the last corner even though I was still getting his slip-stream, because there was a lot of curb on the exit, I could use it if I had to under-steer.
I really got close in the straightaway of the pits, but did not make the same mistake as yesterday, (just before the guy in front of me made his spin, I was so close that I was in his slip-stream. I had no more aerodynamics for the first corner, so I went off and I had to brake so that I would not hit the bump and that allowed him to gain 50m. And in the second corner, he made his spin). This time, I left him a little space, and I negotiated very well my second turn at the entrance by going a little wide to re-accelerate earlier and harder to get the maximum speed for the long straightaway, and it worked. I managed to take his slip-stream and I over took him at the hairpin at the end of the straightaway. Once he was behind me, I could try to go up for second driver but, he must have had 5 to 6 seconds on me and I stayed about 5 laps behind the other guy. There was only 5 laps remaining, but when I got to the checkered flag there was only 1.9 seconds between us, but the race was over. I was going really fast, almost 1 second per lap, but it was not enough. Third place was not bad. Two podiums in a weekend.
It was impossible last year with the car I had and the team I had. We were on average at 1.5 seconds per lap behind the first driver because of that car. We arrived painfully within the first 10. Being on the podium the same weekend in both races was impossible for me.
This time we could celebrate the podium with Champagne and splash each other like it should be.
It was a beautiful and magic weekend, with all the historical cars and the old F1’s that were there, especially my win on Saturday and my third place on Sunday. I do not only owe this victory to my driving skills, but also largely to the team that had prepared and gave me the car that allowed me do these results. So, a BIG thank you to all the Jo Zeller Racing team, the mechanics and team manager and my coach Mr. Jean-Louis Burgnard of Griffon Technologies for this great and unforgettable weekend.
Nürburgring Races 3&4
We had arrived the day before as the trip to the Nurburgring is quite long, about 6h00. Arrived at the hotel, we spent a fairly quiet evening.
The next day, we had an appointment at 9h00 at the track. We toured the track on foot because there was no racing in the morning. I really could analyze the turns and climbs and descents of the track. It’s really different than by car. We could understand better some subtleties in some corners.
Once we made the lap, which took about 1 hour, we were back at the box and ate something, as the first session was at about 14h00.
I immediately felt really comfortable on this track. Unfortunately, last year, I didn’t have much luck on this track, but this time I felt fine, the car was going well and the new track surface was great.
The second session I tried to push a bit more and I was very fast, my direct competitors were more than eight tenths behind, I do not know why. Moreover, the rest of the drivers were more than 1 second. We then reviewed the videos and data to see what we could improve.
Today we started at 8h30. I directly started to push hard at the start. There was nothing very special about these morning tests and the same for the session at 16h30. The car was still very good, I felt really comfortable. At the end of the day, my direct competitor was a bit closer, but was still 5 tenths behind.
The qualifications were also early, around 8h30. The night before, we tested the tires to see the car’s behaviour and if we had to adjust any of the settings. I went to my practice session, and it went well. I was second on the grid.
What you need to know is that the organization we had, told us that we would have a start with the formula Renaults and Gloria’s, which are more powerful cars. So, there was to be a first start with Renault and Gloria, and then about 20 seconds later, it would be us. We were not very happy with this situation, but we had no choice.
Once the start was given, I managed to keep my position despite the fact that in the first corner there was a double yellow flag, so prohibition of overtaking, and at the same time a competitor is next to me and trying to overtake me. I didn’t want to let him pass, and he was not allowed either. In the end I stayed inside and I could keep my position.
Throughout the race I was second, but in the last 3 laps, one of my competitors started to be dangerously close, and besides that, the Renault was starting to catch up and overtake us. When you’re in full battle trying to protect your position, it is really not easy to pay attention to the Renault as well.
In the last lap, a Renault wanted to overtake me in a corner where there is very difficult to overtake, I was on the outside of the corner, skidding, the Renault inside also skidding and my competitor behind the Renault, I told myself, if Renault takes me there, the other will benefit as well, so I try everything to keep my place and the Renault then passed me down the straight away where it should have done in the first place. I could maintain my position until the finish line but it was tight.
We had the qualifications in the rain, which didn’t bother me too much, but what bothered me most is that we were still racing with the Renaults and the Gloria’s, the qualifications were going fairly well, until when the last lap, where I know I could have done my best time, and perhaps even the pole, but a Gloria interfered in the whole lap, he wouldn’t let me pass.
I was really furious against this car, but I learned when I went under the line of timing, I still had two seconds in regulation time, but apparently the computer of the organization thought differently and it counted my last round as a round back to the pits so it was not counted.
I was 3rd at 11 thousandths of a second for second place.
For the race, it was dry and more or less beautiful the rest of the day, but the race was a 16h30. About 30 minutes before starting, we had a huge downpour which completely soaked the track. The passing shower was finished once we were on the pre-grid and immediately after the sun is out and the wind. We saw that when we were on the starting line, the track was drying out. We had the same starting procedure as yesterday, but the first few laps were difficult because the track was wet. In the first lap, I was overtaken by one of my competitors and I found myself 3rd. At the chicane at the end of the straight away, the first driver missed the braking point and went off at the chicane which allowed me to be 2nd. Then, I managed to successfully negotiate the final turn into the straight away and I could take the slipstream of the driver in front of me. I then made a late braking. I went on the outside of the corner and that’s where I could pass. I managed to re-accelerate earlier and to be inside in the next turn. This allowed me to find myself leading the race for a while. But, the competitor who had missed the turn in the chicane before managed to pass me. I couldn’t do anything, he was faster than I was. I did the rest of the race in second place.
Over the race, the track was drying at incredible speed, it was hard to find water on straight away to cool the tires.
Then again in the last 2 laps, we caught up with a Gloria this time. One of my competitors was very, very close to me. In addition, the first 3 cars had one more lap than the rest of the plateau because the race is 25 minutes + 1 lap, and we went under the panel and there was 6 seconds left. In the last lap, my competitor managed to pass me, I wanted to go on the outside to be able to re-accelerate earlier and better, but he managed to re-accelerate earlier, and then he pushed me on the inside and was in front, if I hadn’t lifted my foot off the gas, I would have lost my front wing, so a 3rd place is better than nothing.
I tried everything in the last lap, the track was almost dry, but nothing worked, plus the Gloria’s were not making the task easier, they were 500m of each other, and when they saw two cars, wheel in wheel, they don’t even let us pass, my competitor managed to overtake the Gloria in the straight away before the chicane and I wanted to do the same thing, but the Gloria has closed the door and I could not go and try something on the last corner, once again I was really angry against the car and especially against these drivers that do not respect the blue flags.
But hey, a second place and third place, I am still very happy, 4 podiums in 4 races, no one would even have imagined that last year.
Most Race 5&6
We had arrived the day before by plane. We go to the track around 8am to do a walk around of it. But the organization did not want to let us do that it in the morning. It was done at the end of the day. I had already watched a lot of videos on this circuit to see where the corners were and how to take them. I drove a lot that day, to be able to know the circuit perfectly. No attempt to make further adjustments on the car, but we tried new tires at mid-afternoon and I was really fast with these tires. At the end of the day, I went round the circuit with my team to see exactly how I was taking the corners and how we could improve the driving.
We also had an appointment at 8am at the track since the first training was at 9am. This day was already less driving, and in addition there were many more people because we drove all categories of formula cars at the same time, so it was very difficult to have a free lap to make a good time. The track was slower and more slippery because there were many different types of tires between Renault, F3, and us … When we put new tires, we were a little slower than yesterday, but the track was also slower, and it was hard to find a free lap to make a time.
The first qualifying was at 9am, I tried to do my max, but the first was really fast and was 4 tenths faster, while the previous two days we were the fastest with 4 tenths. I could not do better than the 3rd time, but really close to that of the second. My team still decided to change the set-up a bit after seeing the condition of the tires and the information that I brought about the handling of the car. They are worked like crazy and the set up really worked better.
For the race, I started on the left side of the ractrack, and once we completed the formation lap, we repositioned on the grid and the race direction shows a panel 5 seconds. Once the 5 seconds elapsed, the lights are switched on and remain between 4 and 7 seconds. But this time they remained five tenths of a second … I was surprised of this, but I still took a relatively good start, I did not loose time on the two drivers in front. The 4th had made an excellent start and passed me, he was also trying to overtake the second one, but he was squeezing him against the wall, but he still managed to pass. When the braking point arrived, the driver that had been overtaken drove on the rear wheel of one who had passed him. The driver that mounted on the wheel of the other driver, lost his front wing, but it also damaged the rear wing of the driver that had overtaken him. Another pilot took advantage of this situation and passed us in the inside of the corner. So I was 4th at this time. The pilot who had lost his front wing finished bottom of the rankings while he was the one leading the championship. Then during the race, I could come back on the pilot who had damaged the rear wing, but it was so damaged that it was leaning on one side and slightly forward. I had a problem in the corners when I was really close to him, I always had the wind problem and each time on entering the straight, and no way to use slipstream because of his defective wing. Yet, I had tried everything, but without slipstream and the wind problems in the corners, impossible to pass. Futhermore, this track allows the taking over of other cars only in the straight away before the chicane. I finished 4th in that race, but this time I was leading the championship by 5 points.
For qualifying, not much different from the first qualifying. I started 3rd and yet still had the first 3 tenths in advance, but this time the drivers behind me were very close with their times. I started in the same position as the previous race.
While I was on the starting grid, ready for my formation lap, when I started and left the starting line, I heard a huge clack. In the lap, I tried several times to press on the clutch and at the same time on the throttle to raise the revs, but instead of that, the car moved forward. I did the test 5 or 6 times, and I realized it was the clutch was broken. And I had to make a choice. Either I try to go on the starting grid and was going to stall. I could restart it at the time of the lights and from very low revs, which would have been very dangerous not only for myself but for the rest of the pilots. Or, I would go back to pits, and I try to take the start from there.
At the last moment, I took the pit entrance, and I stopped in front of my pit. My team manager came running towards me and asked me what happened. I explained the problem, and he said, leave the box, go to the end of the pits and start form there, behind the pack. But once I got out of the pits, I was at least 300m behind the last car. Throughout the race, I managed to go up and overtake a lot of drivers without any problem, even the driver that I could not pass the day before. I did it without any problem. This time he had the wing positioned correctly and I was able to use the slipstream. I did my best in this race and starting 11, instead of 3, I managed to get up to 5. The only problem is that the other driver who was second in the championship took the opportunity to regain the championship lead with 4 points.
One weekend when my whole team really worked like crazy, and when I drove a lot. A lot of effort for very little. But it was rotten luck. We will take our revenge at the next race in Hockenheim.
I would also like to thank my team for the great job they did, they worked really hard.
Hockenheim Race 7&8
We arrived the day before, because we had to do some tests on Thursday. The weather was very hard to forcast. It was dry until 8a.m., and then it started to rain. It did not bother me too much. The first testing session took place in the rain. The second session on an almost dry track . The third in the rain again. And finally, the fourth on a track completely dry. So, I tested the car under all track conditions.
This time the track was dry all day. It was sunny and very warm. We did all the testing sessions, but we drove with all the formula cars. So, the first morning session, we were 40 on the track at the same time. In other words, to try and do a good time, it was quite complicated. If we didn’t overtake a slower car, then it was a more powerful car that was overtaking us. But, we found the set up that we wanted.
For qualifying, it was much cooler than yesterday. The qualifying session was at 9a.m., so very good comditions for the tires and engine. I couldn’t do better than 3rd on the grid. In addition to this, we would race with the Formula Gloria which had messed up the race at the Nürburgring. But, this time they were only 5 out of 12 possible. In addition, they had been warned during the briefing that they should not bother us. The first driver on the grid was 2 tenths quicker than I and the second, only some hundredths. I was confident though.
For the race, I started from the outside of the track for the first corner, but I was happy because the first turn was a quick turn so we can stay on the gas, even on the outside of the turn.
My start was more or less okay. The 4th driver had managed to bring himself to my level, but I was on the outside. I just started getting closer to him on the inside, forcing him to lift his foot off the gas if he wanted to pass the turn, and I could stay flat out. In the second turn, it was quite tense between the first and second drivers, they were a bit off the track, but they managed to come back. At the end of the straight, I was second but the third driver managed to get to my level even though I was on the outside, defending my line. He could brake later, finding himself in front of me, so I had to brake and let him pass if I did not want to crash into him. I looked in the mirror once the turn passed, and I saw that a car had spun. This was my adversary in the championship. He then found himself last, and some laps later, had to return to the box because of a flat tire. So, I knew it was good for the championship points. But, I had a problem in the straight away. My gearbox ratios were too short. I hit the limiter too soon and I could not go any faster while my opponents could. So, impossible to overtake someone on the straight, or prevent someone passing me on the straight. And this was the case. I just had to stay outside defending my line, there was nothing else to do.
So, I did much of the race in 4th position, and I could only wait until something happened in front of me so I could take advantage of the situation. Besides that, the car was not doing as I wanted. The weather had changed compared to the previous day, and the set up was no longer suitable.
I limited the damage as best I could, finishing 4th, but knowing that my opponent in the championship was last. I could have tried something in the last laps, but I did not want to take the risk. Especially knowing where my opponent in the championship was.
The qualifying was held at the same time as yesterday. I did a good time, and I knew I was in pole position until I returned to the pits to check the tire pressure. Then when I left, there was a Gloria in the wall at turn one. It was very badly placed. And then there was a yellow flag on the sector. My opponents continued to improve their times while under yellow flags. It is impossible to make better times than normal because you are supposed to ease off in that area. So, seeing my opponents were improving, I did the same. I found myself 3rd. At the end of qualifying, I explained what my problem was to my team manager who went to see the race director and explain the problem. A few hours later, we received the new grid plan, I was second at 6 thousandths of a second from the pole. Well, at least we won a position.
For the race, this time I was on the inside of the track. And before starting, I went to see a friend who gave me some advice to make a very good start.
On the grid I followed it, and when the lights went out, I had a great start. My opponent of the championship had the pole, but his start was not that great. This amplified mine even more. At the second corner, I did not even need to defend my line because I had enough of a lead. I did the first lap in first place. Then in the second lap, the driver behind me took the slipstream and came to my level. Since this time we had changed the gear ratio, I could have a better top speed. But, when I have nobody in front to take advantage of their slipstream it is not very useful. At least I am no longer at the limiter. While the driver behind me had managed to take my slipstream, he was faster than me at the end of the straight. I was second for a few laps, and then after, I negotiated well the turn before the straight and I managed to take his slipstream. I found myself again in the lead. During the next 3 or 4 laps, he tried the same thing in the straight, but I understood and I managed to adjust my braking and stop him from overtaking me. Then, at one point he made a mistake in the Sachs Kurve, and got the slipstream in the corner and he had massive understeer. This gave me a gap of about 6 to 7-tenths, which deprived him of my slipstream in the straight. He could not try anything. I started to have a considerable gap, and managed to get the fastest time in the race. I passed the finish line as winner with 2.7 seconds ahead the second driver who is my opponent in the championship. He overtook at high risk at the end of the straight in the last laps to get second place.
Whilst I was passing the finish line, I passed along the pit wall to salut my team and I saw an American flag was being waved by the wall behind my panel. It was my engineer who had brought an American flag and who waved it as I passed along. I was very touched. Then, after the cooling lap, I went back to the pits to jump into the arms of my team manager. They really worked hard on the car and I felt that it was really nice to drive.
I got on the podium with the flag around my neck. Unfortunately, the organization had the wrong anthem, and they played the Swiss one, not the American one.
Now, I am leading the championship, and I had a very nice win. I am very happy and I would like to warmly thank my team for that. They did a great job on the car.
Magny-Cours Race 9&10
We had arrived the day before because we were doing testing today.
It was quite overcast in the morning, and it was unsure if it would rain or not. But throughout the day, the sky cleared.
We did 5 runs during the day. The only problem this day was the traffic on the track, it was difficult to make a lap without encountering a car. Still, it was a good day because at the end of it we put on new tires. The tires give us a much better grip on the track as there are turns and chicanes which we take really fast and I can go even faster with the new tires than with the old ones. In addition to this, in the run, which was the last of the day, there were five cars on the track, so it was very easy to get a clear lap. At the end of the run, I was one second faster than the other competitors who had also put on new tires earlier in the day. I was very happy at the end of this day.
This time there were fewer drivers on the track all day and we were divided into more groups, which was really better. We have done really good laps on this day, especially for gaining confidence in very fast corners and chicanes.
We still had a set of new tires in the last run of the day so I’m really confident with the track and the car in qualifying for the next day. This time I was only about 3 or 4 tenths quicker than my opponents with new tires. But I was confident for the next day.
For the qualifying, which took place around 10h30, I was very confident in the car, I knew she was well settled and the two days of testing that we did was really good.
I was ahead of qualifying all along, and I managed to do 1.45.7 more than 5 times in 12 laps. So I was very regular. The pole and the second and the third was really tight, in the same tenth. I had the pole for two hundredths and avoided the third place 8 / 100. We were the only ones in underneath a minute and 46 seconds.
For the start, I leave from the clean side of the track. And this time we would have a departure as in F1, with the 5 lights activated one after the other and then the extinction of all five of them. I went to see the start of the Formula 3’s to see how long the lights would last. I was amazed that they were fast.
I went to do my warm up lap, and reposition myself on the grid. I looked closely at the lights, and once they were off, I took off the grid. I remembered that I had made the start at Hockenheim. And I did the same thing here. I did a really good start. My direct opponent in the championship was second. But I do not even need to shut the door in the first corner. I made a very good start. I just closed the door on the inside at the end of the straight away to guarantee to stay first. Already after the first lap, I was a half a second ahead. Very quickly in the first laps I managed to dig a gap of almost two seconds that I could maintain. I knew that my direct opponent was busy defending his second place from the 3rd. During this time I did my best to create a gap and keep it.
Then, towards the middle of the race, there was a safety car. I arrived very quickly in the decent and I was very focused on the track and I didn’t see the safety car until the last moment because its release was not well positioned. The gap I had was now reduced to nothing; we were behind the safety car for 3 laps. Then once the lights turned off on the safety car I knew it was for me to restart the race. I slowed down very slowly before the chicane and re-accelerated a bit later, but I had too much speed for the chicane which meant that I jumped on the curb and the car was sliding a bit from in the rear and I could not make the start as I would have liked, but I still managed to keep a gap from the second.
There were only two or three laps remaining, so I did everything possible to prevent my opponent from overtaking me. I closed the door in all the corners and I finally passed the chequered flag in the lead but with only two tenths ahead of my opponent. I also had the fastest lap, in short the “Hat Trick”: pole position, fastest lap and victory. I was very happy. I went to the podium and heard the American anthem and got my trophy, the wreath and champagne, but since we had a race the next day, we had agreed not to splash the champagne..
After the victory of the day before, I wanted to do the same today. I went for the qualifying. Unfortunately, this time I failed at 0.001 seconds from the pole, which is about 4.2cm, which is nothing on a track like this. But what I knew was that in my last lap I was ahead by 3 tenths on the best time, but I missed a braking and turning on the car along the curve and to avoid the gravel, I had to slow down. When I passed the finish line I was 1 tenth off my best time but I knew I could have done better. I was very annoyed at having made that mistake in the last lap, especially for a thousandth of a second. This was at 10.30 am and the race at 14:30. So, all this time, I was not very happy over that result. Plus, I was leaving on the dirty side of the track.
At 14:20, I went back to pre grid. But when the warm up lap has been given, I was surprised not to see the 3rd car on the grid. He had returned to the pit to do his installation laps, but he had miscalculated the time, and when he returned to the pits in his second lap, the pits where closed, so he had to leave last once everyone was gone. I knew I had nobody on my right and I could do something at the start.
This time, the lights were longer and I had a bit more wheel spin that yesterday, but I got the same start as my opponent that had the pole. Then in the second corner, which is a long right hand corner going uphill, he wanted to go too fast, I was just behind a little on the inside but still behind. I saw he had under steer on the corner, so he had to correct his car a lot and I think he did not want to waste time, he kept his foot on the accelerator and it was the wrong thing to do. This cost him dearly. I saw him go over the border, then on the green carpet and into the gravel; it slowed him down greatly and allowed me to pass him, he then returned to finish seventh in the straight away.
Like the day before I braked on the inside and then I started to dig a gap. Since I knew I was 3 tenths better per lap, I used it, and after mid race I was 3 seconds ahead. I managed the race until the last lap where I just lifted off a bit, but I saw my competitor had also taken the pressure off. I passed the finish line two seconds ahead in addition to also having the fastest lap.
I went to the podium and did the same thing as yesterday, but this time we could use the champagne. My direct opponent in the championship who finished second yesterday, and was fourth in this race because of his mistake in the first lap lost a lot this weekend. When I arrived, I was 6 points ahead and I leave with a 25 point lead. I gained a total of 46 points from 48 possible. I was very happy, and I can go to Monza with less pressure.
I want to thank my team for all the work they have done, and especially for giving me a car like I had this weekend. A very big thank you!
Monza Race 11&12
We arrived yesterday and we did a walk round the track with my team manager. The track is 5.8Km, but it was worth the trouble as you realize and see a lot more things by foot than by car.
For the first test, I had to make sure the brake pads were broken in, which allowed me to adjust myself to the car and the circuit.
I had already done a test last year on this circuit, but the car was very difficult to drive, while this time, it was perfect. A perfect balance. So the car last year was very poorly set up. For the first run I familiarized myself with the circuit and I was nearly a second faster than my adversaries. We continued to do the available runs throughout the day. I was getting better, but my adversaries too, and they were beginning to gain time too.
For the last run of the day, the sky was overcast and it was 17h. I made a mistake, like all drivers, I kept my tinted visor. In the final laps of the run we could almost not see anything anymore, we drove with the rain lights on and I could barely distinguish the signs of my braking points. I could not even see the information on my dashboard. I only saw the lights to change gears. We had new tires on as well. We were fast, but we had the second time for 1 tenth and the other competitors were very close. Once we returned to the pit, it began to rain and did not stop until the end of the morning the next day.
The qualifications took place at 11am and it was still raining. It was therefore wet tires, and during the early laps, we could see absolutely nothing when we were behind another car in the straight before Ascari. We could not even distinguish the bridge, or track end. Despite this, I managed to have the best time and the pole. I was the only BMW below: 02.20.2000. I did: 2.19.899 and the second driver was: 2.20.2.
My direct adversary of the championship was the fifth and more than 2.5 seconds behind. The race took place around 16:30 in dry conditions. The sun came out to 11:30 and dried the track. For this last race it would be like Nurburgring, with Formula Gloria’s and Renault. We would be 33 drivers on the track and as at Nurburgring we would have 2 starts
The first departure was given, and once all other formulas had passed the first chicane. I tried to repeat the same start as at Hockenheim and Magny-Cours, but it was a little worse. Nevertheless, I managed to stay first at the first chicane. But, arriving at the second chicane, I came in too fast and not to cut the chicane, I had to really slow down and I was penalized at the acceleration, and one of my adversaries overtook me before Lesmo 1, then another two in the straight before the Parabolica. During the race, I changed position between the first and fourth. Almost at every lap there was a change of position because of the slipstream.
In the last lap, at the exit of Lesmo 2, the first driver made a mistake and went wide so I could take his slipstream before Ascari and was really close to him at the exit of Ascari. I took his slipstream and moved on the left. I had seen in my rear-view mirror that the third driver tried to pass on the right.
We ended up 3 drivers side by side in front of the Parabolica and I was on the outside, the one in the middle braked so that he would not be taken into a sandwich, the driver on the inside braked later.
I managed to uncross and bring my car into the inside bend of the Parabolica. Then, as perhaps some of you have seen the incident between Schumacher and Barichello, well I was Barichello. The driver made a sharp movement with his steering wheel, forcing me to drive through the white line. (We receive a penalty if it was driven over, but if the race director saw that the driver had been pushed, it’s the other driver who receives a penalty.). He then gave another turn of the wheel and I passed really close to the pit wall. At about 20 cm doing 210kmh. He ended first and I second. I was so angry about his manoeuvre, and the danger of it. I did not even think about the championship. I was champion because I finished before my direct adversary who was 4th. When I got back to the pits, I went to see my team manager and we went to see the race direction. We got told that the podium would be the next day because of this story. Finally, after having seen the video of the manoeuvre, the race director decided to give the driver a 20 second penalty, and thus ended up ninth, as the first 5 finished in 2 seconds. The driver disagreed with this decision and protested, but in the end he was disqualified from the race and got a 10 place penalty on the grid for the next race.
But, we still had won the Lista Championship.
After the incident of the day before, I knew something would happen again. I set off for my qualifications, and the driver that pushed me against the wall yesterday was positioned behind me the whole time for the qualifications, and once he overtook me after the first chicane, and then when he was next to me, he pushed me into the grass. I had to put two wheels in the grass to avoid contact. Then there was a red flag, returning to pit, he crashed into me really hard, exploding my crash box. The crashed car was in the Parabolica, just before the entry to the pits, so I slowed down. Normally, when there is a red flag, you need to slow down and maintain a safe distance, and that driver did not do it at all.
Once the red flag was over, we departed for a lap, and I signed the third time. The driver who crashed into me had the pole, but having a 10 place penalty, he would start 11th, and I, second. In addition, while returning to the stands, I tried to explain myself to him, but his manager came and told me that this was to be settled on the track not in the pit boxes. Finally seeing that the situation was beginning to be particularly tense, the organization had given us a new briefing and this time the briefing was very clear, we had to very careful and the slightest incident would be severely punished, especially after the very dangerous incident that occurred the previous day.
For the race, it was the same as the day before for the start. But this time, my car rolled initially before the lights turned off, so I stopped the car and once the lights turned off, I left. I managed to take a very good start, and I was first before the chicane. I knew I had done a jumpstart, and therefore, being fair play and hoping that by seeing that I was fair-play the stewards would be nice. In coming back to the starting line a lap later, I put myself to the right side of the track, I let myself be taken over by the other driver as he took the slipstream and when he was next to me, I raised my foot off the pedal to let him pass.
Arriving at the first chicane, and in the middle of the chicane, the third driver, who was my adversary for the Swiss Championship, hit me pretty hard, although he didn’t do it on purpose (after discussion with him and a good laugh) but I was really slow at the exit of the chicane, I found myself in 5th place. At one point, the driver who had almost put me in the wall the day before overtook me. I knew that being in 6th place I would be champion, because my adversaries would have to win the race, and I not to finish the race.
I also saw that it was relatively tense and it was hot in the first positions. Then at one point the driver that had pushed me the day before was behind my adversary for the Swiss Championship. Before Ascari, he got the slipstream and at the braking point, he mis-braked and went into the gravel, he then came out of the gravel behind me, and the next lap was in the wall at Lesmo 1 because of a steering problem.
Then in the final lap, the driver who had the pole had found himself 4th and he missed the braking of the first chicane and had to shoot straight, and zigzag out of the chicane, which is made in case you cut the chicane. I could pass him at the reacceleration. I closed all the doors to prevent him from passing me, and I finished 4th. I knew I had the title of Swiss Champion. I was really really happy.
To celebrate, I had asked the race director if I could do a donut to celebrate my titles, and I had the authorization. So, I did it in the second chicane on the main square. Then I came back slowly to the pits. So today we would have both podiums. But, the one for the second race would be the first one. So, I went for my 4th place, and then came back for the podium of the first race, where I finished first and got my first titles. I asked my team to come with me, because I am not the only one that did all the work, my team has done a lot of it too.
It was a fantastic weekend, but I think the first race was one of the hardest and most intense of my life. I want to thank from the bottom of my heart my team, especially my mechanic and my team manager without whom I could not have had the season I’ve had and winning the two championships. So a huge thank you and I also want to thank everyone who supported me throughout my career and especially this year. This year, I scored 189 points while last year I scored only 6 points. And only thing that hasn’t changed is me. So again, a huge thank you to the whole team for this wonderful season!!!