After claiming the GP3 title in 2014, British racer Alex Lynn graduated to the GP2 series with DAMS Racing to partner Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly in an all-rookie line-up.
Lynn’s 2014 GP3 campaign was incredibly consistent, scoring points in all but two races and enjoying eight podiums with three wins on his way to a 44 point victory over Dean Stoneman for the title.
At the conclusion of the 2014 season, Lynn announced an end to his partnership with the Red Bull development program when he signed on as a development driver for the Williams Racing Team, who offered the Briton a run in the FW37 in the post-Spanish Grand Prix test in May.
We sat down with Alex at the Singapore Grand Prix to talk about his season to date and his plans for 2016.
GP3 to GP2, you didn’t take too long to acclimatise yourself with the car getting a Sprint Race win in the second round in Barcelona, what’s the difference between the two cars and how did you adapt?
The actual driving of the car wasn’t the difficult bit, I think becoming fast was relatively simple I think it’s in the driver’s DNA that you naturally can drive a car fast and usually happens in most things. It’s more the weekend management that becomes really difficult to control. It’s the first time I’m getting used to tyre compounds, different strategies, pit stops, so I think all of those things took a bit of time to get used to. I’m still getting used to it actually, but I’d say that’s the biggest difference really.
How did you adapt to the Pirelli tyres? I know you used them in GP3, but they’re different specs between the two series.
They’re a different beast for sure. It’s a tough one really because they actually don’t react the same from track to track and I think that’s actually the difficult thing of getting used to them, because every time you go to a track you don’t know what they’re going to do. And I think that’s why you see the more experienced guys taking a bit of an advantage because they know what to expect and how hard to push and start to get the feeling for the tyres of when it’s good and when it’s bad. So I’d say that’s the biggest difference is actually not knowing what they’re going to do.
Is it a mix of turning them on by getting heat into them? Is that the hard part? Or is it coping with the degradation?
It’s actually everything, honestly. Switching them on is different from track to track, trying to control the degradation from track to track, it’s just a minefield. But you see it in Formula 1 as well, it’s difficult to control, which in one way makes it really good because it’s unpredictable. But it then lends itself to the more experienced drivers. Sometimes we’ve got it right and sometimes we’ve got it wrong, it’s just a learning curve.
Unfortunately, it’s really highlighted when you get it wrong because you’ll drop through the field like a stone. I think both you and Pierre [Gasly] experienced that multiple times and you always seemed to find each other on track.
I know, I think it was a bit of an ego war at the same time.
That leads me to my next question because you were a part of the Red Bull development program and Pierre still is a part of it. That would still play on your mind wouldn’t it?
You know, we have a really good relationship. As you can see when we race we leave nothing on track, it’s just all out to beat each other. But I have to say the one thing that we’ve got is we’re very good at giving everything on track, but as soon as we step off of it, it’s like look, ‘it’s all fair in love and war’ sort of thing. We actually work really well as a team together, I think we’ve gone better at that as the years have gone on. Even though we’re still close, even when he was on pole position at Monza, I was genuinely happy for him because he put it together for the first time and he’s always been threatening to do that. It’s a good rivalry between us.
You were picked for a reason at Red Bull and now you’re with DAMS, two rookies heading the lineup, how do you think you’ve gone against Pierre this season?
I think the biggest point is I’m slightly ahead, so obviously that’s a good indication, but from my side I’m happy that I’ve had some really great results and I’m annoyed that I haven’t capitalised on good opportunities. And I think that’s the same for both of us. So as a pairing we can look and go ‘it’s been good, we’ve had the highs, but we’ve also had too many bad days where we haven’t scored points at all’ and that’s not really good enough. So I think that’s a little bit where we’re at. I think if we were both higher up in the championship and fighting for the overall championship win, I think it would change the tone. But at the moment we’re not, and we need to work together to make sure we’re at the front all of the time.
What’s a realistic expectation for the rest of the year?
Good question, I think uh, I want to get on the podium in the Feature Races consistently. I think if I look back to Monza I was too focused about winning the Feature Race, whereas we just need to finish. Score good points, qualify well, don’t try and break the lap record, get podiums in the Feature Races and then score some good points in the Sprint Race with the reverse grid. That for me would be a good weekend, I want to get that in all three of the next rounds and finish the year solidly.
Is that what you attribute your crash in Monza to? Were you too focused on winning rather than settling for points? That crash was hard to judge because you had [Johnny] Cecotto who hadn’t pitted yet and you were forced to make a split decision on whether to lunge and overtake him or not.
When I look back at it that’s exactly what it’s like. I’ve just braked late and I’m trying to avoid both basically. If Cecotto wasn’t there, a) I might have made the corner and b) If I hadn’t I would have just run down the escape road. So unfortunately it ended up being more dramatic than I would have liked. I think basically it was just a silly mistake from my part which is a real shame for myself and the team, because Pierre had the driveshaft failure from when he pitted. And then I crashed when we were 1-2. All of that prospect turns into nothing, and that’s what I kind of mean when it comes to with each other, okay we’re rivals, but when that result happens you have to say ‘well that’s not what we need’.
With your Williams role as a development driver, can you walk us through what a typical race weekend is for you with the team?
So most weekends I’m racing GP2 at the same time, so this weekend (Singapore) and Texas are the ones I’m going to away from my racing. Basically I’ve done a lot of work in the factory, working within the departments, gaining experience into what actually goes into making a Formula 1 car tick, which I think is really important grounding. I know that people like Sir Frank [Williams] and Claire [Williams] thought that it’s a great way to build the driver that they want by going through this process. This weekend is basically allowing me to fully immerse myself into the team whilst not having the pressure of a GP2 weekend at the same time because obviously I’m fully focused on GP2, so it’s a chance to really get in amongst the team.
What are you looking at next year? Do you have to keep your options open?
From my side – nothing’s confirmed or anything – what I’d like is to continue with Williams, and I’d also like to do GP2 again. That for me I think would be the most successful thing to do, that would be perfect to be honest.
Would you continue with DAMS?
To be honest I would be very surprised if I didn’t want to sign with DAMS again, we’ve had a good year together and the car has been really strong, so that would be my preference.
Every weekend we see at least five driver changes, you’re not the type of driver who’s letting an empty seat dictate where you drive are you?
Nah because I think whenever you look at any sport a good working team has so many dynamics, and I think one dynamic that’s crucial is continuing and building on a relationship, especially something like a GP2 championship which we know is so difficult to put together a get right every weekend. So I think that’s the key really.
What was the highlight and lowlight of your maiden GP2 year so far?
Highlight of the year was definitely Budapest. Lowlight I think there has been a few, I think the main lowlights have been races where I’ve actually been less competitive, the one thing we can take away from the Monza race was that we were really fast. OK it’s a real shame that we didn’t bank any of the possibilities we had, but there’s been a few, there’s been too many lowlights as well as having a lot of good points.
So you’re looking forward to resetting next year and starting fresh?
Yeah I think that’s be nice, like I said it’s crucial that the last three rounds we have really solid weekends and put the right results together and finish where we should be, that’s both for Pierre, myself and the team and yeah I think that’s what we need.
Images via GP2 Series Media