When Andy Soucek embarked on a campaign in Formula 2 this year, he probably had little idea what a great season he would have. As well as taking the title, he earned himself a prize test with Williams – which happened on Tuesday during the young driver days at Jerez in Spain.
The Spaniard spoke to reporters after topping the times in the session about how his day had gone, his season in F2 and his hopes for the future.Q. What was your program today?
AS: Pretty much all short runs, apart from a few where I did a bit more. It was more a case of getting used to the car and getting the confidence to push as hard as I could. But I'm really happy because the team gave me the opportunity to perform well and push for a good lap time. They gave me everything necessary to really feel comfortable and I could really push to the limit. I just had two spins in the slower corners under braking, which were not really such a big deal. I flat-spotted two sets of tires, which I'm worried about a bit, but there were no other big mistakes. It was a very good lap time at the end of the day as well, I think.
Q. Did you stall when you spun and brought out the red flags, or did the team tell you to turn the car off?
AS: We turned it off because it was in safe mode – otherwise it gets too hot. And I didn't have enough steering to get the car off the track without spinning. I got very close to the curb, so decided to stop it there rather than risk damaging the rear tires.
Q. Did that have any mental effect on you? Within 15 minutes of the spin, you set the fastest lap of the day.
AS: No. A friend of mine said he was pleased that I was able to recover quickly after the spin. I'm a driver who doesn't really need a lot of time to adapt to new circumstances. That's one of my strong points. I get the confidence very quickly. So, I could push on the next set of rear tires and really go for it, but I'm very grateful that Williams had the new set of tires for me to enable me to do it, because the others were flat-spotted.
Q. How does this compare to your first F1 test with Toyota in 2005?
AS: I don't really remember much about the Toyota test. I'm pretty sure it was much slower than today.
Q. What were your impressions of a Formula 1 car today?
AS: I'm really amazed. When I came back to GP2 from the Toyota, the difference was not huge, but coming from F2 to here, with the difference of 18 seconds a lap, the first laps I did were amazing – I thought I was never going to reach the limit. But it's like anything. It's a car and it has four wheels and a certain amount of grip. At some stage you reach the level, and I did. I think I did a good job.
Q. Are you at a difficult point in your career now? There's nowhere to go but F1...
AS: It's not difficult at all. It's a great position, and I want to go to F1.
Q. How much will today's performance help your cause for an F1 race seat next year?
AS: We don't have a plan B right now. We're really focusing on being in Formula 1 next year. That's our only aim. I have to say I'm really positive because I have a lot of help from Spain, lots of good sponsors, my manager and team are doing a great job in discussions with different F1 teams. I'm pretty sure we can be on the grid next year. Obviously the new teams all require budget and I've got sponsors who want to support me. This is all down to winning F2 this year, so I have to thank Jonathan Palmer and everyone else there who has put me in this position. I think it's a good step before F1.
Q. Has the year in F2 served its purpose in raising your stock in the eyes of the F1 teams?
AS: Absolutely. That was exactly the move we've been looking for. I went in thinking that if I won the championship, it was going to be good. If I don't, I can retire. It's quite difficult for a driver knowing that if you don't win the championship, you can't carry on in motorsports. But I had the right people beside me, a lot of confidence, and it was a proper win, too. Now I have the test, so it was my year really.
Q. Have you spoken to the Campos Meta team?
AS: Actually there was not much interest there. I know it's a Spanish team and I'm a Spanish driver, so it's logical. But they actually require more budget than I have. I'm not in that position now.
Q. Can you sum up the F2 season?
AS: It's impressed me. More than the car itself, which is slower than a GP2 or a Formula Renault 3.5, it's the level of professionalism of the championship. It's very difficult to run 26 cars by yourself, so everything done by MSV and Jonathan Palmer and the crew is great. I've never felt more comfortable in a championship than this year, and I've never believed the cars are so genuinely equal as in F2. In GP2 you can see a big difference in the setup of the car from the good teams to the bad teams, and in other series too. Sure, going there was a risky move, but it was the right one.
Q. How much of F2's success next year depends on whether you get an F1 drive?
AS: That's exactly the aim of going to F2. I knew if I won the championship, I'd have people like Jonathan and Williams trying to push the first champion into F1. When you take everything in a pack, I won the title by 50 points and led an F1 test, so logic says I should have a seat in F1. Of course, motorsport is not logical at all, so we will have to wait and see, to the last minute, what happens.
Q. Is it just a race seat you want, or would you take a testing role?
AS: A race seat. The third driver doesn't get much mileage next year under the rules, so I want to have time on the track to improve myself. I know the time today is good, but it could be better. It's all about experience and getting to know the car.
Q. What are your weaknesses?
AS: Today, the physical element was hard. I had a problem with my helmet – it was compressing my neck – and I didn't have a very good blood circulation, so I felt a bit sick at one stage. But we solved the problem and, I have to say, the Williams physio Nick [Harris] did a great job. If I'd done longer runs, then I think the weakness might have shown up more. I don't want to say that it's a weak point, but I'd like another go to prove it isn't.