DRIVER DIARY: ROOKIE REFLECTIONS


How time flies!

It only seems like the other week that I was preparing to make my Formula Ford debut with the Fluid Motorsport Developments Van Diemen at Silverstone, and now the season is over….

It has been seven months of hard work, with the occasional high and a few lows, but it was certainly an experience – and one that I can only learn from. It was very different from what I was used to in karting, where each meeting was a lot more intense, with less time between races. Sometimes, it was hard to keep focused between races at Ford meetings, but that is just one of the things that I had to learn to adapt to over the year.

Overall, I’d have to say that it was a disappointing season, where we never quite got the results were thought we would – and that, often, testing suggested we should. Things definitely tailed off towards the end of the season, just when they should have been reaching their peak, and that is a little frustrating.

Qualifying seemed to be our downfall, as I think I showed that I could race with the best drivers in the field when I had the chance. Too often, we’d have a good test before the weekend, only to find that we couldn’t get the car quite right for the one timed session, which then had a knock-on effect on our races as we’d be starting too far down the grid.

As a rookie, not having a team-mate meant that I was having to find my own way with the car, although the Fluid team’s experience obviously helped steer me in the right direction. It would have been useful to have had another head in the cockpit, however, to offer some alternative views.

The high points of the year came at Snetterton and Donington Park, where we managed to record our best finishes. The first Eurocup race at Spa-Francorchamps was also one to remember – even if the rest of the weekend wasn’t – and the whole European series was good additional experience in a busy first year.

The lows also include Snetterton, where I made a mistake that cost me a first podium and could have opened the door to more, and the Silverstone finale, where there seemed to be no moving forward. That contrasted strongly with the opening round at the same venue where, ironically, I probably had one of my stronger qualifying performances.

However you look at the year, though, you have to remember that it was my first, and basically one where I needed to learn the ropes. It was good to come out of it as the best non-Mygale driver, as the French chassis was still the strongest out there, and I have certainly come away with a lot more experience to fall back on.

Now I know what I need to do to be fully prepared for next year – I want to be 100 per cent ready for the opening round, especially as there is going to be a new car in Formula Ford. That will level the playing field a little, so the driver should be able to make more of a difference on track. If I can learn from the mistakes I made this year, I will definitely be stronger in 2012. So much of the battle is mental and, if I can go into the year knowing that I am fully prepared, that will stand me in good stead for whatever is to come.

Although I didn’t feel any pressure, despite being linked to AirAsia and Team Lotus, and knowing where Motorsport News had ranked me in their list of drivers to watch, I know that expectations will be very different in 2012. I’m already excited about getting to drive the new Formula Ford car, which I will do on 6 December at Brands Hatch, and next year can’t come soon enough.

I have been asked why I didn’t consider doing the Walter Hayes Trophy or Formula Renault Winter Series to both keep my hand in and gain more experience, but my focus is entirely on preparing for 2012 away from the circuit. I want to know the car much better than I did at the start of this year, especially on the mechanical side, and I want to make sure that I am fit, both physically and mentally, for testing and then, most importantly, for round one.

Until next time - bring it on!

Matt

 

Article created by Craig Llewellyn.