The Hungarian Grand Prix weekend was a good one for Lewis Hamilton. Despite the speed of the Lotus cars he managed to preserve his tyres well enough to bag the – very much-needed – 25 points before the summer break.
It wasn’t just McLaren that were celebrating on Sunday night, though. If you had a chance to catch some of the other racing over the weekend you will have noticed that Brit Max Chilton won his first GP2 race, Antonio Felix da Costa won one of the GP3 races and over at Spa, Carlos Sainz Jnr won the Formula 3 race. Nothing too strange about that of course, but every single one of these drivers races for Carlin. It was an awesome achievement for the British team.
When I went to see Trevor Carlin at the end of 2010 he described his outfit as “more of a can of lager team than a champagne team”. Look at the website, though, and at the top of every page is the number of race wins it has notched up in its 13-year history – currently it’s resting on 232. Rewind the one and a half years since my visit and it was at 187. A “can of lager” team this may be, but it’s results driven. “People who know us,” Trevor told me, “will realise that we’re going to do everything possible to be at the front.”
Max Chilton took his first GP2 win in Hungary
The team’s first year in GP2, in 2011, wasn’t a success. Carlin himself was looking at a top five finish – “aerodynamically it’s a new car and the tyres are a complete unknown, anyone could be quick” – but had to settle for 13th, and last, in the standings. This year it is currently in that fifth position and is only three points off Spanish team Racing Engineering in fourth.
“There’s no magic,” Trevor said about winning, “there are no hidden secrets. It’s just hard work and it’s more a case of not messing up, than doing something magic, it’s keeping the car consistent. We can go to any circuit, certainly with F3, and be on the pace immediately. That consistency gives the drivers confidence, then they drive a bit quicker.”
So could Carlin, the most successful team ever in F3, do a better job than HRT and make the step to Formula 1? “You have to be interested in F1. I love watching it, and I love the technical side. On the business side, though, I’d be totally out of my depth. To deal with Bernie and all those guys – they’re sharp and they’re in it totally to make money out of it. For me, it’s the love of motor racing and winning. Being competitive – that’s what I love.
“With the greatest will in the world how on earth is someone like Carlin ever going to compete with McLaren? It’s taken them 40 years and billions and billions of dollars to get to that level. It would take years and years to compete with them.
“F1 is nice to watch from the outside, it’s nice to have some contact with it and see our lads [Vettel, Vergne, Karthikeyan, Ricciardo, Senna and Rosberg all raced for Carlin] go up there and win, but for us to be involved in it… I don’t see it.” No doubt Bernie would have something to say about the can of lager in place of a bottle of champagne.
Carlin may not want to go anywhere near F1, and we can’t blame it to be honest, but isn’t it great to have such a successful British team bringing on the Formula 1 world champions of the future? The win in GP2 will no doubt be followed by many more.