Louis Delétraz was satisfied with what he learned and the progress he made on and off track during his GP2 debut at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.
The 19-year-old joined the Carlin squad for the final GP2 event of the 2016 season and his objective from the outset was to learn as much as possible about a brand-new car, circuit and the different tyre compounds that are available from Pirelli.
Friday’s 45-minute practice session presented Louis with a limited window of opportunity to learn the 5.55km Yas Marina circuit for the first time and the qualifying session that followed later that evening was another completely new experience as the running was in the dark and the track temperature was lower than it was earlier in the day.
“Quali was a big experience because you go from the medium compound to the super softs that only hold for one flying lap and are around four second per lap faster,” the Renault Sport Academy driver explained. “There is very little chance to learn. You need to go out and – boom – set your time.
“Things were looking good on my second set of super softs and my time in sectors one and two was on a par with a P13 grid position. Then I got blocked which was a real shame. But I still understood a lot about the tyres during the session and I was quite pleased with my speed considering I was starting from nowhere.”
Louis, the ‘Rookie of the Year’ and overall runner-up in this year’s Formula V8 3.5 series, started Saturday night’s Feature Race in P18 and a confident getaway meant he ran as high as P11 before he entered the pits for fresh rubber on lap seven.
However, his race came to a premature end shortly afterwards. “Unfortunately, during the pit stop, the front-right wheel nut didn’t stick for long and I lost the wheel on the out lap. A car with only three wheels doesn’t go very fast,” Louis said. “The aim was to use the race to learn the tyre deg on both compounds so it was disappointing it didn’t work out because of a technical issue.”
Louis approached Sunday’s Sprint Race in determined mood – despite enjoying barely any track time on the medium compound tyre the day before. But his measured approach was rewarded as he guided his ADS Securities and GP Xtreme-supported car to a P17 finish in unfamiliar conditions, thanks to a track temperature of 34°C.
“The pace was actually pretty good and the deg was also okay,” the Swiss driver said. “My engineer and the team were quite happy because we were running about the same speed as the top five and this was not really expected. That was a positive to take from the second race.”
With his maiden GP2 weekend now behind him, Louis has been able to reflect on his performance and is pleased with what he learned as he targets a full-time drive in the 2017 GP2 series.
He said: “The priority coming to Abu Dhabi was always to learn how the Pirelli tyres work and to get as many laps as possible. The car itself wasn’t too hard to understand because the power isn’t much more than the V8 3.5. But the feeling your get from the different tyre compounds is huge.
“It was always going to be a tough weekend, after all you are joining the last race against drivers that have been competing all year and had three days testing in Abu Dhabi before.
“We couldn’t expect to be running at the front but I’m pleased with how much I learned and how I adapted to a completely new category of racing. This is all good experience that I can take forward.”