Looking forward to Le Mans
On the back of an encouraging first race of the WEC season at Silverstone, we went to Spa hoping for more of the same. Our Aston Martin lost 20kg of ballast through a Balance of Performance weight break, so we were looking forward to see if that closed the gap to Ferrari and, from what we saw in free practice, it certainly looked promising. Our goal was to get on the podium again and keep the points coming in.
Marco [Sørensen] had a difficult first stint as we tried starting on the harder rear tyre, but when Nicki [Thiim] took over on the preferred tyre his pace looked on par with our podium goal. Unfortunately one of the LMP2s tagged his rear going into Liège, spinning him into the end of the tyre barrier, which then rolled the car and that was the end of our race. Things were looking positive for a podium finish, but all those points just disappeared.
It’s frustrating, because that corner is flat in a GT and you don’t expect to have an LMP trying to sneak up the inside if they haven’t already done it way before the corner. He could have made the pass on the next straight, on the way to Blanchimont, and both cars could have stayed out and raced to the flag. It was all very unnecessary.
The focus now is on Le Mans. We have a number of days testing with Dunlop, then of course the official test at Le Mans itself. Normally you have a good feeling for your pace at Le Mans relative to your opposition, but this year it’s hard to call. Corvette has looked very strong in America, so you know they will turn up and be competitive. Ferrari is already showing that the 488 is strong and we’ve yet to see what the Ford is like in low-downforce configuration.
In the midst of all of that, before we even get to Le Mans, we have the Nürburgring 24 Hours, which is one of my favourite races of the year. The Nordschleife is an incredibly challenging circuit, but to race there with almost 200 cars makes every lap entertaining! We recently did a VLN race as a warm-up and finished fourth, so we’ve every reason to believe we’ll be competitive in the 24 Hours. I really enjoy jumping into the GT3 Aston Martin with its Bosch ABS system; you can be a real hooligan and get to enjoy the fact you can’t flat-spot your tyres!
Going back to Le Mans for a moment, I have been reading about the new SAFER barriers from America being installed at the Porsche Curves. I’m so happy that the ACO has gone down that route, rather than doing anything to change the circuit or add run-off. The beauty of that section is that it’s like threading the eye of a needle. These new barriers maintain the challenge but increase safety and that’s a difficult balance to achieve.
Elsewhere, what a weekend for Max Verstappen in Spain! I was lucky enough to be his father Jos’s team-mate in 2009 and I enjoyed his tales of being a karting dad. It was good to hear about all of his adventures with Max. I can only imagine the feeling he had after the Spanish GP, seeing his son on the top step. It has been an incredible climb for Max and he has delivered every step of the way.
Although Max has proved you can get to F1 at an early age and be a winner, my feeling for the single-seater ladder is that there should be a timeframe or you’ll have drivers who are basically done and dusted by the age of 20 if they haven’t made it to F1. For that reason I agree with the changes the FIA has made to the regulations, to make sure drivers are in future more experienced before they are eligible for their superlicence.
There’s no harm in doing a couple of years on the lower rungs of the ladder. Max is an exception, but even if regulations had delayed his entrance for a few years, he would still have become a Formula 1 superstar!