After the British Grand Prix, I got another incredible opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car. This time it was at Duxford in the UK. The same place where Maria De Villota had a very unfortunate accident the week before. I think there was a bit more curiosity and interest from the general public while we were there because of the recent accident. There is also a huge air museum at Duxford, so there were a lot of people walking around during the day of the aero test! This time though the test was labeled a “behind closed doors” test, so no one other than team members could get near the car or our little paddock area.
I was very much looking forward to this day, because the test program was again very extensive. This time as a driver I got to do some more entertaining things. However since it was a “behind closed doors” test I'm not actually sure if I'm allowed to talk much about it. What I will say is that several of our runs up and down the airstrip involved me accelerating as aggressively as possible to the highest speed I could achieve before running out of runway and having to brake. Talk about every kid's dream right? Just putting your foot flat to the floor in something with incredible power and trying to go as fast as you possibly can before braking!
I think I reached around 195mph before having to brake hard. I must say getting to do that a few times was incredible, again, one of the best days of my life!
The team was evaluating several different new bits on the car and we did an incredible amount of running from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.. I only got out of the car a few times for a bathroom break or to shove some lunch into my stomach before jumping right back in. I got to use the DRS button as well, which was interesting. We didn't use it on our top speed runs but used it to measure several different things at constant speeds.
It was a really cool day for me because the first aero test I did, I was a bit nervous and just wanted to make sure I did everything right. This time I felt so much more comfortable in the car and it all just went so well that I was able to enjoy it a bit more. I am so thankful that the Sahara Force India guys gave me another chance to drive the car.
It was then back to work in GP3 at the German Grand Prix, free of penalties! I really wanted to keep the momentum going from Silverstone. I had never been to Hockenheim though so I knew it would be quite a challenge. Practice went very well, on my final lap I was up on the quickest time until I reached the last three corners where another car went off in front of me. We could see in the data that the speed was there and I had been making massive gains every lap. I was absolutely loving the track.
The weather was questionable all weekend but fortunately it was dry for practice and qualifying. I felt really good when, after everyone's run on their first new set of tires, I was on pole. Then as normal in GP3 qualifying, everyone goes out for another run on a second set of new tires since the cars are lighter because of the fuel burned. I found it quite strange that on my second set the rear tires felt like they overheated quite quickly and the balance was very different than my first set of tires. My first flying lap was my best, which didn't feel right because the lap didn't feel quick at all. That means the tires peaked too early, because after that the rear tires lacked a lot of grip. I improved my lap overall but fell to third.
I was quite upset because our car was so fast. Still, third was much better than 15th or wherever I started race one at Silverstone after the penalty! Also, it was awesome to see my teammate, Daniel Abt, on pole at his home race if I couldn't get it!