The Koiranen GP driver had been interview by FormulaRapida.net last week before the Barcelona Round of GP3 Series. Here you have what he said:
Why did you decide to move to GP3 instead of staying in the World Series by Renault?
At the start of the year we were pretty much already in Eurocup, and it pretty much all meant I’d almost signed in terms of contracts with Koiranen to do Formula Renault Eurocup with them, and of course after a bit of a disappointing year off the back of a good year we felt like we should probably stay in there and try and conquer it almost. That was the initial plan until we then decided that GP3 was a great option; we’d looked into it, we’d done the last test in Abu Dhabi, which went well, and we sat down with them [Koiranen] and discussed maybe an option for GP3. It all just came to terms and that’s why we’re here today really. I think it’s been a good step up and also something that I needed as well, especially a new challenge; I’ve really enjoyed my time in GP3 already and I’m looking forward to the first round!
Although winning in 2013 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, we could not see that performance last year in Eurocup. What happened?
It was a massive rollercoaster, in fact more downs than ups I think. Obviously we came away from Northern European Cup with high hopes for 2014, expecting to be a challenger for the championship at least, and all the tests went really well, we were always up there. And then they had this tyre change for 2014, a slightly different compound for us, and we didn’t think there’d be that much difference in it when we did the test we didn’t feel like there was a huge difference. I think maybe, when looking back at it, myself and the team were a little bit slow to adapt, and then that was compounded by a few mistakes from me which then made the situation look worse. I think even the Fortec guys would admit that year they don’t think that we quite had the strongest car at the start of the year at all but of course we worked really hard and I think we got it quite good towards the end, just obviously it was too late by then. I made a few mistakes as well which cost us quite a lot, so I think just a combined sort of effort in terms of both team and driver meant that our season looked really bad. It was very disappointing but I learnt a lot from it and I learnt a lot from my mistakes I made that year and hopefully won’t be repeating it this year.
In Formula Renault you had Michelin, but here in GP3 it is Pirelli. What is the difference between the two compounds? Is it a big difference to manage them?
Sure, I don’t think there’s much you can compare. The question is “What’s the same?”, which is nothing. The tyre itself is quite a challenge, I’ve enjoyed it though, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of trying to look after these tyres. I especially think for a younger driver as well and someone who’s looking to get to Formula 1 it’s something you have to do, you have to be able to learn how to manage these tyres. That’s the big challenge in Formula 1 and that’s the big challenge here. I’ve enjoyed the quality of the tyre for one lap, which is nice, and to know that you’ve pretty much only got one lap, especially here, is quite a sort of adrenaline rush I suppose for the driver, knowing that you’ve only got one chance. Race runs you’ve obviously got to drive at like 5 seconds off the pace, I think we were for practice just to try and last for 40 minutes. It’s quite a nice challenge I think and I’m looking forward to racing actually because that’s going to be really hard because in practice you have got no pressures of people behind so you can easily drop off at 5 seconds off the pace and just tootle round, save the tyres and see what you can do, but obviously in race situation you’ve got maybe 27 drivers trying to get past you on that first lap so you’ve got to push for maybe the first 3 laps until you get a gap so, yeah, I think it’s going to be an interesting race with a few rookies on the grid as well trying to get the race start and also the 40 minute race, and looking after these Pirellis, I think it’ll be quite a challenge and I’m looking forward to it.
This year Race1 will be 4 laps longer. How will the challenge be? What do you think your pace will be?
Of course you’ve got these extra of long races: 40 minutes for the first one and 30 minutes for the next one. Also you’ve got a slightly softer compound in the Pirelli tyre in GP3 for this year compared to last year so that also has an effect and knowing my plan it is very difficult. We found out in practice that the best way to have, say the best overall time for 40 minutes is to drive at 5 seconds off the pace, you’re doing 1:41s to keep the tyre in the first few laps, even though you could go maybe to a 1:38 you just don’t drive to there, you drive at a 1:41 and you try and consistently keep that for the whole 22 laps I think we do in the 40 minutes or around about that. That’s sort of how you manage it, that’s what we’ll be managing in the race, but of course like I’ve said before you’ve got drivers then pushing at different times and drivers trying to overtake so then you’ve got to try and push and you’ve got to try and not make mistakes in terms of wheel spin or lose the rear and the grip because that’s the big factor trying to look over those rears. It’s going to be interesting; I think tactically it’s going to be quite interesting for that.
You come from a series where the reverse grid is not present, in difference to GP3. What are your thoughts of this system? What do you expect for your performance in qualifying and the reverse grid situation?
We had a pretty reasonable test here a couple of weeks ago, and in terms of qualifying pace we were reasonably strong, I think definitely looking at a top 5. Reverse grid race again will be something new for me, I think it gives a great opportunity if you don’t have such a great qualifying so you’re in the top 10 to then make up to top 8 and obviously if you’re starting from pole then it’s a good opportunity to try and win the race from there. It’s going to be something different, especially if I’m maybe at the front in the first race then I’m going to have to try and do some overtaking, which will be new to me as well with this car, like understanding this car’s characteristics when behind another car. Overall I’m just going to try and really enjoy this weekend, I will really enjoy this weekend, and I think if we can bring everything together then we’ll have a really good weekend. The car’s definitely there, the car’s definitely really strong in race runs so I’m expecting to be fighting for the lead, Fighting for 1st place, especially a podium at least, and get some valuable points in the bag to start off with, I think that’s quite important as well to start off well.
What’s the plan for the whole season, what is your target?
The target is of course to be in the top 3, that’s at least really. Of course you don’t really know truly where you are until this first race; in practice you get yourself up to pace and everyone’s running tyres at different times, and it’s just a lot different than in qualifying where everyone’s out at the same time, putting their slicks on at the same time, everyone’s got the same amount of slicks… then you truly know where your pace is. That’ll be interesting as well but I’m hoping we can show similar progress as we did in practice and be up there.
Which drivers do you see as the strongest ones for the championship?
There’s a lot of drivers who look really strong. Who’s the strongest? I wouldn’t know yet, it’s probably best to ask me after the race, but I think of course you’ve got the usual guys: Ocon, Jann Mardenborough… Kirchhöfer, of course, he’s been really quick in testing. I think even like Seb [Morris], my fellow countryman, I think he’s going to be really strong towards the middle part of the season… I mean, Gilbert, you know there’s a hell of a lot of drivers there that – Fuoco – there’s so many drivers out there that can definitely challenge. I think it’s going to be pretty tight but hopefully we can finish on top of those guys and do a better job, that’s obviously the goal for us – obviously Eriksson as well, my teammate, and Fong, I can’t forget them either, they’ve been really strong in testing and pushing it a lot. I think overall we’ve got quite a good package with the team as well and drivers, teammate, they’re always good to have a good bunch of teammates as well to push you along that extra bit and to learn off of. I think overall we’re looking for a very good season, and hopefully as a team as well as an individual we can be up there.
During the races, for example if you start 20th and you have to overtake, which with the car we saw last year is really difficult, what do you think about whether to push, not push, damaging the tyres, how everything affects everything else?
It’s a real challenge because you’ve got the dirty air of course, you know this mass effect where you have a reduction of downforce when behind another car and it becomes extremely difficult. I think even though with these cars you almost have to push the other driver to make a mistake, for the other driver to use their tyres a little bit more than you. It’s almost like a prey/predator thing. I think that’s why it’s difficult but hopefully I won’t be in that situation, starting 20th, but if we are we’ll review that and see what we need to do, but I think for me if I was in that position it’d be stay calm and slowly make up the positions, try and get into that top 8, obviously that’d be a really big tall order, or try and get in some points, which would be the main thing I think for that. You’ve got to realise I need a top 10 to score points, obviously that’s almost a little bit unfair, with the amount of drivers that there are. For example, if you do start further back and you still do a very good job and finish in say, 14th or 13th, that’d be a pretty good job because you’d have done a lot of overtaking, and to think you only score points at top 10… That’s going to be the most important thing for the year: being consistent and score points, score points after points after points, and then get those race wins and those podiums when you can. That’s going to be ultra-important – of course you need to get those wins, like Dean Stoneman and Alex Lynn did. Obviously they got a big march because they got so many wins – but trying to be consistent as well is important. You can lose out on a lot of points in one weekend because you finish maybe 11th and 11th, which isn’t too bad but you score no points so you might as well have a DNF and DNF, so it’s going to be quite important to be in the points.
I think the worst thing in this series in the reverse grid, when you retire from the race, then you have to start from the back, despite a good qualifying. I think that’s quite difficult.
Yes, of course.
I think this year we’re still going to Sochi?
Yes, yes we are.
What do you expect from that round?
I don’t know, but I’ll be doing, well, I’ll be doing some stuff, let’s put it that way. To know where I will be in Sochi, so I’ll know where I’m going around. I also haven’t been to Red Bull Ring yet as well so that’s going to be a big change for me as well. That’s part of it and a lot of drivers have never been to tracks before and still excel. I feel like I’m a driver that can learn pretty quickly and I don’t need too long to learn the circuits. I think nothing will be an issue on that side of it and Sochi we’ve got sorted anyway so we’ll nail Sochi, I think that’ll be no problem. I’ll know which way it goes round and we know we have a very good car in Sochi from last year with Dean and Eriksson as well who did a good job. I’m looking forward to all the next rounds actually; it’s quite exciting for the season to finally get started.
And finally, we know that you live in Catalonia, in the Barcelona area, what do you think about the people, about the sea, about everything?
I’ve really enjoyed my time here in Barcelona, or in Spain I should say because I’m living in Sant Feliu so to be up there and to really experience Spain; that is quite an old town and there’s some pretty traditional people there and not many people speak English, which is always a challenge, but I’m enjoying it and I’ve got some friends up there as well, which is nice just now and a lot of people have helped me out and of course been very friendly. I think a lot of people probably experience Barcelona beach, I have too with it only being 40 minutes away, and it’s a pretty special place, especially on the weekends it’s really fun, really relaxing and there’s a very good vibe around there. It’s always nice and I’m hoping that we can stay there. It’s been nice to be away from my comfort zone as well, it’s pushed me a lot with my training and stuff like that with some of the training there, which is always a challenge. So yeah, I’m really enjoying it.