“My first year in Europe, speed was never a problem, but I think I lacked a bit of maturity,” he says. “To this day, I still don't know what was causing it. I think in the first eight races I had one win and seven retirements! I didn't know if it was me or just poor luck. There was one time at Spa where I got T-boned and didn't even make it out of the first corner! It was weird because I was the only driver that year to qualify in the top five for every race, and I put together a fast season but the results never came. It finally clicked toward the end of the year with four podiums. It was too little too late, and I ended up 12th overall.
“I enjoyed myself in GP3 largely because of the team I was associated with. We worked together previously in A1GP with Team Canada! It was a bit like a reunion. Everything at Carlin at 3.5 this year was just amazing. Carlin was a bit strange; we had the smallest number of people as a team at the circuit. We put together a phenomenal season despite such limited manpower, I think we had only eight full-time people in the team.”
Returning to 3.5 this year was largely a financial decision, but as Wickens explains, he wasn't alone in his assessment of the series to run in 2011.
“The only reason I did 3.5 this year was for pure cost reasons,” he says. “GP2 is over 2 million Euros ($2.8m) to do. But you can do a year of World Series for under a million; you can't really compare the two. A lot of drivers had the same mentality. I have no regrets going where I went.”
Now it's about where he's going. As part of the bonus for winning the 3.5 title, Wickens will have a day's running in the Nov. 15-17 Abu Dhabi young driver test with Lotus Renault GP. As he has backing from Marussia, he's also likely to get a day with Marussia Virgin F1 in the test.
As ever, funding will have to occupy a decent portion of Wickens' already packed talent briefcase if he is to make the jump to F1. The testing, though, can only help.
“I think winning the 3.5 championship put my name on the map,” he says. “You now have to show what you're really made of. You only get one chance for a first impression in F1, and you go over your comfort level and push as hard as you can every lap.
“F1 is my goal for 2012,” he declares. “I feel I've done enough this year to prove myself and prove I'm ready – or at least ready for the chance to give it a shot. I will work to raise as much as I can. The goal is to secure a race seat and start my career in F1.”
If Wickens debuts in F1, he'll be the first Canadian driver in the series since Jacques Villeneuve and BMW Sauber parted ways midway through 2006. At the moment, Wickens is the only North American with a valid superlicense.
“You generally think of it as an honor,” he says. “It's sometimes more difficult for North Americans to make a career there. But it's a privilege to be representing Canada and North America as a whole and work to get an F1 race seat for next year.”