The dust has now settled after an exciting opening weekend in Bahrain for FIA Formula 3. Charouz driver Ayrton Simmons, who raced in the final round of F3 last year with the team, started his first full F3 campaign with two solid races, which saw him pick his way through the field. The British-Spanish driver sat down with F1 Feeder Series to discuss the season ahead.
By Charlie Parker
The opening weekend of a season can be challenging, especially for rookies. It wasn’t any different for Simmons who ended qualifying in 29th, in a tough session overall for the Charouz team. But there was progress shown in both the Sprint and Feature Race as Simmons made his way up the order, finishing 18th and 19th respectively.
“Obviously I’m very encouraged to have improved,” he said. “I think that’s what we have to look at. We didn’t expect to be very competitive in the first round, with it being the first race and turning up with not a lot of testing.”
“I think the qualifying performance could have worked out better for us, but there are a lot of things I’m still learning and we are learning as a team. Our race pace is really good, I gained quite a few positions. I was happy with how the races went, which is what matters the most, but I think we have to try and work on prioritising qualifying further up the field.”
I think the qualifying performance could have worked out better for us, but there are a lot of things I’m still learning and we are learning as a teamAyrton Simmons (Charouz, FIA F3)
Following Bahrain, the F3 season takes a slight detour to Spain with two in-season tests during April. This allows teams up and down the paddock to work on things that may have let them down during the weekend. More time in the car is one of the main things Simmons is looking forward to, as he didn’t have the opportunity to do some testing during the winter.
“At Jerez and Barcelona we are just looking for improvement,” he says. “After Bahrain we know exactly what areas we need to focus on and we will be doing just that. I’m feeling positive, I was at the team factory the other day and had a chat with the engineers and everyone involved. Everyone is in good spirits, which is the main thing.”
“We have a few programs for testing planned out and we are looking at more of a qualy run base, which we need to improve. That’s the main improvement, not just for me but for the team, we want to qualify higher up. Obviously, there’s a limited amount of tyres which isn’t brilliant but it’s the same for everyone.”
You have to keep reminding yourself that you are in a new championship, it’s a rookie year and you gotta build some momentum and learn as much as you canAyrton Simmons
Simmons is coming off a fantastic British F3 (now GB3) campaign, where he took four wins on his way to finishing second in the championship. He now moves up to FIA F3 with a team that won’t necessarily compete for wins too often, but not a lot changes for Simmons, he says.
“The mindset never changes. Every time I set foot in the car I’m trying to drive as fast as I can and get the most out of the car I can. It doesn’t change, the way I work, the way I think. The only thing is you have to be more patient as it’s very easy to get frustrated for sure. You have to keep reminding yourself that you are in a new championship, it’s a rookie year and you gotta build some momentum and learn as much as you can. This is one of the hardest championships there is.”
Aiming for top 20
For the rest of the season, Simmons continues to pound the improvement drum as he looks to gain more experience in the F3 car this year. The next race at Imola is a new one for the F3 calendar and Simmons is looking for good race results: “For the next race we’re looking at between the top 20 and 15, that’s where we want to be. That’s what I would see as an improvement and the target. It will be great. It will be the first time an Ayrton has raced there since the tragedy. I’m looking forward to it. The layout is amazing, I really like it. It looks very physical, very non-stop.”
We’re looking at better results for sure but it’s not just me that wants the results, it’s also the teamAyrton Simmons
The main goal for Simmons and the team is to reach the points. Last year, Charouz finished fifth in the teams championship with 127 points. With a lot of this season left to go it is uncertain whether they will reach that same total but points is the goal nonetheless.
“As long as we get to the points, that’s the main thing,” says Simmons. “We’re looking at better results for sure but it’s not just me that wants the results, it’s also the team. I know they’re working really hard along with me. Whether it happens in the next race or the last race of the season it doesn’t matter.”
Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd
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