With his season due to get underway at the next round at Zolder in April, Norbert Michelisz was watching the opening round of the World Touring Car Championship at Curitiba with interest.
After a successful maiden season in the WTCC with the Zengo Dension Team, the Hungarian youngster will switch from SEAT to BMW for the 2011 season. The team decided to wait to begin its season in Zolder so that it gets to test the car prior to racing it.
The new technical regulations have meant that some of the cars on the grid have been modified. With this in mind, Michelisz was interested to see the relative performance of the BMW 320 TC to its competitors in Brazil.
“We can consider Robert Huff's (Chevrolet) 1:21.758 qualifying laptime as a reference point,” said Michelisz. “Compared to this result, the fastest BMW and the fastest SEAT were also within a second. This distance can be compensated over the following races.
“The pecking order was a bit different on Sunday; the races showed a bit more realistic picture on the performances of the manufacturers. I was expecting that BMW would be lapping at least the same pace as the Chevrolet and it was the case with Tom Coronel. However we should take into account that Alain Menu was leading. I'm absolutely delighted with what I saw in Race 2 and I can't wait to race again in Zolder.”
The new qualifying format was one major talking point from the Curitiba weekend, with many leading drivers criticising the new reverse grid system. “The new system is not quite matured yet,” said Michelisz. “My main concern is that a driver might start from the back of the grid on both races in case he or she can't deliver his or her best performance for technical or whatever reasons. This is a new issue that might pop up. As we could see in Fredy Barth's example, he didn't really have a chance to recover following his penalty as he was forced to start from the back of the grid again on Race 2.
“I consider this as big a problem as the situation in which the drivers are not necessarily fighting for the top positions but aiming for being 10th. However in the same time the chance of dropping out of Q2 is there and this tactical aspect should be present in this game. Beside this I think the faster drivers should be rewarded as they don't deserve to be almost penalized on Race 2.”
Michelisz's attention now returns to the preparations for his debut in the BMW. Speaking about how well he thinks he will be able to perform in Zolder, he said: “I think everything depends on how much distance I will be able to cover with the car in testing. If I get the opportunity to do two or three days, when I will be able to try out different setups and adjust the car to my driving style, then I think it will be possible to deliver the level of performance that BMWs showed in Brazil. This should be the aim now but we should not forget that despite the testing, it may be that things will work out in a different fashion since a race weekend is always a different environment.”
Missing the Race of Brazil could have prevented Michelisz from fighting for the Yokohama Trophy. However, the results fell in Michelisz's favour with the top positions in the class being shared between several drivers.
“From my point of view, the Brazilian weekend was fortunate,” said Michelisz. “Unlike the overall classification where Chevrolets took both victories, the opponents divided the points in the Yokohama Drivers' Trophy. In this respect our absence was a close call, the outage is not as serious as it could have been.”